ZKF-Arbeitsgespräche im Wintersemester 21/22

What is a Classic? 3.0: Poetry, myth and classical forms in some contemporary South African theatre


Vortragende Person/Vortragende Personen:
Prof. Dr. Mark Fleishman (University of Cape Town)

Dr. Christina Wald

This presentation is conceived as another in a series of lectures on the theme: “What is a classic?” by artist/theoreticians who were born outside of Europe but to some extent lay claim to a tradition of European classics in relation to their identity and their work. The first of these is T.S. Eliot who presented his lecture on the topic to the Virgil Society in London in October 1944. Eliot was of course an American who ‘became’ English and claimed an apparently European line of descent from Virgil, for himself and for his fellow Englishmen which, as JM Coetzee put it, “they have not always been eager to embrace”. The second is Coetzee himself who presented his lecture in the early 1990s at Michigan State University but was, at the time, living in South Africa where he was born (he now lives in Australia and might have ‘become’ Australian). And now, there is me in 2021, a theatre-maker who is also an academic, born in Africa, still living and working in South Africa, but perhaps only provisionally or partially African and indebted to a tradition of European classics that I do not necessarily or always want or own, but which difficult histories and complex presents make it impossible to disown entirely.

My intention in this presentation is to examine the ways in which what might be called ‘classics’ are used or continue to be used by contemporary theatre-makers in the South African context, in the aftermath of formal colonialism and apartheid. I will do this through an examination of the work of Magnet Theatre, the independent South African theatre company that I established with Jennie Reznek in 1987 and which we now run together with Mandla Mbothwe.

The questions I hope to engage are:

  • What is the status of the so-called European ‘classic’ in the colonial aftermath? And are there African ‘classics’ that either counter or are in conversation with, the European ‘classic’ in the aftermath? And if so, who might lay claim to these different kinds or classes of ‘classic’?

And then,

  • How do these ‘classics’ function as formal devices in the dramaturgy of contemporary theatre in works produced by Magnet Theatre?

Kontakt: Prof. Dr. Christina Wald

Datum: 2022-01-12