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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


WILLEMSE, Hein. In steadfast allegiance: Adam Small and the Cape Flats Players. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.4, pp.879-896. ISSN 2224-7912.

Adam Small often referred to the amateur theatre group, the Cape Flats Players, that regularly performed his dramas and revues since 1972 - especially in Western Cape communities. Although some research has been undertaken previously on black Afrikaans community and amateur theatre very little is known about such cultural activities generally. This descriptive paper reports on the relationship between Small and the Cape Flats Players theatre company, an association that has not yet been researched. As playwright Small invariably revised his plays after the Players' first performances often years before publication. Well-known plays that the group performed include Kanna hy kô hystoe (Kanna, He is Coming Home), Joanie Galant-hulle (Joanie Galant-them) and Die Krismis van Map Jacobs (The Christmas of Map Jacobs). They also devised a number of poetry and music revues which served as supporting acts to these drama performances. The revues were based on Small's published poetry, with titles such as Kitaar my kruis (Guitar my Cross, 1976), What about de lô (What about the law, 1980), Oos wes, tuis bes, Distrik Ses (Home sweet Home, District Six, 1982) and Vyfde Evangelie (Fifth Gospel, 1982). In this contribution to Afrikaans drama history the role of Dramsoc, the student theatre company at the University of the Western Cape, the Cape Flats Players' immediate predecessor, is discussed with a focus on the first Cape performance of Kanna hy kô hystoe in August-September 1972, performed at the University of the Western Cape and the Nico Malan Nursing College Hall in Athlone, Cape Town. Norman Michaels as Kanna and Charlyn Wessels as Makiet, both undergraduate students, performed the main roles of the play to high acclaim. For most local reviewers it was the first time that they had seen a performance of Kanna hy kô hystoe, and they were in the main impressed with this "work of emotion and truth" (W.S. Kaplan in The Cape Times). Bob Molloy wrote an insightful review for The Argus entitled "Confrontation with reality" in which he said inter alia: The odour of truth offends the hypocrite, says the Koran. On that basis this major advance in indigenous theatre is an assault on the senses - a gut-gripping confrontation with reality […] Small […] brings out the feel, the pity, and terror of true catharsis […] put across in the patois of the Cape with an almost poetic economy of word and movement. […] All the tragedy of rural-urban drift, the anomie of the city, and the breakdown of simple beliefs in the face of urban violence is contained in this stark sketch of a family forced off the farm by the death of the bread-winner and into the ghetto of District Six. The University of Western Cape, as other ethnic universities established under the apartheid-era Extension of University Education Act, Act No 45 of 1959, experienced a period of upheaval during the 1970s. The student community became more radicalised and many students were caught up in the Black Consciousness movement, spear-headed by the South African Students Organisation. Members of Dramsoc were influenced by the political philosophy of the day and associated with the aims of Black "revolutionary theatre" as formulated by Strini Moodley, a prominent Black Consciousness proponent: We had to challenge the existing order, the values, the norms. Black Theatre had to speak the language of revolt, of liberation, of revolution. As a Theatre of Revolt [it] was an expression of Black Consciousness… The paper provides some background to an uprising in 1973 at the University of the Western Cape when students staged a walk-off which for many changed the trajectories of their lives forever. Adam Small's life also changed. He, in solidarity with the students, resigned his position as a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy. At the prompting of Small, some of the students who walked off, formed the Cape Flats Players, envisaged to be a full-time theatre company. Their first performance was Joanie Galant in December 1973, based on a first draft of Small's second published play (Joanie Galant-hulle published in 1978). The paper reports on the reception of this play and subsequent revues as well as the end of the full-time phase of the Cape Flats Players. Peter Braaf, one of the original members of Dramsoc, revived the Cape Flats Players as a part-time amateur theatre group, that continued with the performance of Small's plays and revues, especially in the Cape Peninsula and the Afrikaans rural communities of the Cape Province. The article concludes with a brief overview of the group's activities and their different audiences.

Keywords : Adam Small; Afrikaans amateur theatre; Cape Flats Players; Joanie Galant-hulle; Kanna hy kô hystoe; Peter Braaf; student militancy; Black Consciousness; drama history; University of the Western Cape.

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