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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


WILLEMSE, Hein. 'n Ou skoolsaal of teater - die opvoerruimtes van die Cape Flats Players en die Eoan-groepAn old school hall or theatre - the performance venues of the Cape Flats Players and the Eoan Group. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.4-1, pp.1194-1217. ISSN 2224-7912.

In 1983 the theatre researcher Temple Hauptfleisch raised concerns about the decline in South African amateur theatre (also called amdram). He identified several factors that could support its continued development, among them "the availability of a theatre or hall". He states that "to produce a play one needs a theatre, and for the sophisticated public of today the old school hall is no longer good enough" (Hauptfleisch, 1983). This quotation can hardly be regarded as representative of all amateur theatre companies or communities in the South Africa of the 1980s. The sophisticated audiences and amateur companies that he referred to were limited to high middle class white audiences in cities and major towns. In most communities and rural towns such preferences would have been unimaginable. This article investigates the position of the Cape Flats Players (the Players), an amateur theatre company that was established in 1973 and continued its activities until about the turn of the century. Where relevant, the fate of the Eoan Group, an amateur Cape Town opera company, is discussed. It is common cause that during the high point of apartheid very few theatres were accessible to non-white actors or patrons. For instance, the Players had no permanent rehearsal space or performance venue. They initially rehearsed in their founder, Adam Small's garage, and later after hours in university lecture halls, a community library, or the dance hall of a local hotel. Helen Southern-Holt founded the Eoan Group in 1933 as a cultural and welfare society. Under the guidance of Joseph Manca, the group became primarily known as a choir and opera company. They had their own rehearsal venue until they had to move and used the Cape Town City Hall for their performances to ethnically mixed audiences. Changes to the stage of the City Hall and the implementation of the Group Areas Act in the early 1960s forced them to relocate their activities. With the aid of private donors and government subventions they built the Joseph Stone auditorium. The close relationship of members of the Group to and their financial reliance on the Department of Coloured Affairs gave rise to criticism and eventually boycott action by anti-apartheid activists. With reference to the Players the article investigates the availability of theatre spaces between 1970 and the early 1990s and the impact of apartheid legislation on their and the Eoan Group's activities and performances. Specific attention is paid to the effects of two key apartheid statutes, viz. the Reservation of Separate Amenities Amendment Act, No. 10 of 1960 and the Group Areas Act, Act 41 of 1950 as amended by Act 77 of 1957. Theoretically, the paper is informed by various perspectives on space formulated by Michel Foucault, David Harvey, and Henri Lefebvre. Foucault's essay "Of other spaces" is relied on with reference to his notions of "heterotopia" and "heterochrony". A key insight of Harvey, namely that "space and time are socially constructed" is used in the paper to explore the processes of social reproduction of political policy guidelines. With reference to Lefebvre's notion of the "production of space" three key concepts are referred to in the article, namely that of spatial practice (i.e., space as perceived between daily routine and urban reality); representations of space (i.e., space as conceptualized by scientists and social engineers, among others) and representational spaces (i.e., "space as directly lived through its associated images and symbols"). With respect to the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, Act 49 of 1953 as amended it is found that the Players did not have access to any of the available theatres on university campuses in the Cape Town vicinity or surrounding towns; that the access of audiences to their performances was restricted; that they had to use non-traditional spaces for their performances; that they had no control over the nature and demography of their audiences and that through their itinerant performances they created new networks of connected individuals and groups. As far as the Group Areas Act, Act 41 of 950 as amended is concerned, the obliteration of the early cultural networks of the Eoan Group and their relocation to their own theatre in a township are discussed. It is found that the anti-apartheid activists promoted the boycott of the facility, consequently seriously hampering its effective functioning for much of the 1980s. In the final instance, the Players' approach to perform in the once boycotted "whites only" Nico Malan theatre, is discussed in juxtaposition to the fate of the aforementioned boycott of the Eoan Group. It is found that by the beginning of the 1990s the political climate had change significantly from that of the early 1970s and 1980s. Although their performance at the former "whites only" facility in 1991 met with some criticism, the political and cultural climate had changed significantly. In this respect the Players could be regarded as the group whose performance signalled the end of the community boycott of the Nico Malan theatre. In general, it was found that the place of performance is relational to other spaces, histories, and symbolic conceptions. The choice between "an old school and a theatre", although apparently simple, conceals complex questions on space, access, and exclusion.

Palavras-chave : apartheid legislation; Reservation of Separate Amenities; Amendment Act; Group Area Act; Cape Flats Players; Eoan Group; theatre facilities; spcace.

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