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DOUBLE-BILL FOR ST ANNE’S (article first published : 2007-03-4)

The Theatre - St Anne's College In association with Dalro (Pty) Ltd is to present a double-bill comprising Passion by Edward Bond and Lux In Tenebris by Bertolt Brecht.

Edward Bond was born in 1934 and left school at the age of 15. He worked in factories and offices, and then enlisted and served for two years in the British army. This, together with his experience as a child during World War 2 having been evacuated to the countryside where he was exposed to the violence and terror of war, has shaped the themes of his work. His first play, Saved produced by The Royal Court Theatre in 1965, led to the eventual abolishment of theatre censorship in Britain.

While serious in nature, Passion is a comedy written in the absurd style; a common tool with political theatre in order to engage and access the audience to the issues at hand. Although the piece is very English in its origin, the issues are universal and the characters are essentially caricatures that represent the two clear aspects of all societies: those who govern, and those who live with the dire consequences of their government's decisions.

Passion was written in 1968 as a piece of agit-prop theatre for The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). CND was launched in 1958 under the presidency of the philosopher and veteran peace campaigner, Bertrand Russell as a new pressure group, set up "to demand a British initiative to reduce the nuclear peril and to stop the armaments race." Activities of the CND included mass protest marches, as well as the involvement of artists and writers to create awareness and support through play festivals, art exhibitions and allied cultural events. Bond wrote a second agit-prop play in 1968 for a political festival entitled Black Mass that commemorates the Sharpeville Massacre.

"I write about violence as naturally as Jane Austen wrote about manners,” says Edward Bond. “Violence shapes and obsesses our society, and if we do not stop being violent we have no future. People who do not want writers to write about violence want them to stop writing about us and our time. It would be immoral not to write about violence."

Lux In Tenebris is one of Brecht's earliest plays, written in Bavaria in 1919 when he was 21 years old and a student at Munich University. It appears never to have been performed in his lifetime, or in South Africa. It clearly looks at social and moral issues in relation to greed, power, poverty, prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases and the choices people have to make to ensure their survival in a capitalist world.

“I can compete with the ultra-modernists in hunting for new forms and experimenting with my feelings,” said Bertolt Brecht. “But I keep realizing that the essence of art is simplicity, grandeur and sensitivity, and that the essence of its form is coolness."

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was born in Germany. He lived through turbulent times; two world wars, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution and the establishment of the eastern block. In 1933 he fled to exile in Denmark and the USA where he developed and reworked a number of his plays.

The development of his unique Epic style of theatre was a direct reaction against realism. He believed realism encouraged an audience to be passive, as they became hypnotised and lulled by the theatre experience, rather than engaged and ready to participate in it. His Epic style of theatre included theatrical devices (Verfremdungseffekt) that he hoped would alienate his audience from realism and remind them they were in a theatre watching a play. Lux in Tenebris includes many of these alienation devices such as: projected scene titles and captions, songs, characters directly addressing the audience, a large group chorus and a set that suggests a locale rather than becomes it. Brecht demanded that his audience should think and not feel; should examine what they see and make changes to their own lives; and that his audience should always remain emotionally detached from the action in order to understand it, and act upon it.

As a socialist, Brecht was always concerned about the role that capitalism played in the lives of the 'little' people. All his plays look at the moral decisions characters are forced to make due to their context, rather than who they are as people. Brecht believed that all people were essentially good, and that crime, violence, corruption and immorality was merely people's method of survival in a capitalist environment where the divide between wealth and poverty continues to widen. His central characters are representative of this belief; caught in particular contexts and situations where they face moral and social dilemmas, and are forced to make decisions to ensure their survival, rather than to clear their conscience. His message remains powerful in our current twenty-first century context.

The double bill will take place at The Theatre - St Anne's College in Hilton from March 19 to 22 at 19h00. Tickets R15 booked on 033 343 3300.




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