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SHADES OF MARGUERITE POLAND (article first published : 2001-08-15)

Well-known Durban novelist Marguerite Poland’s Shades, is a set book this year for senior high school students. Kwasuka Theatre Company in Durban is currently in production with a dramatic exploration of her sweeping saga set in the Eastern Cape.

Shades of Marguerite Poland has been written and directed by Patrick Collyer and Caroline Smart who have worked closely with Marguerite Poland to produce a fast-moving and thought-provoking show. The setting is a television press conference/chat show whereby members of the audience are treated as media representatives and become involved as the action takes place around them. The production addresses certain issues in the novel which have posed stumbling blocks to those studying the work.

Commencing its series of schools performances on August 20 at “Gunners Arms” (Dan Pienaar Hall) in Old Fort Road, Shades of Marguerite Poland will continue with two shows a day until August 31 and again from September 3 to 5. There will be evening shows at Kwasuka on August 30 and 31 and September 1 to cater for the general public and those involved with matric trials.

Marguerite Poland has given her unqualified support to the show. “I was delighted that Patrick and Caroline have written a dramatic exploration of my book which takes into account a dynamic new way of looking at the novel and inserting questions most often brought up by grade 12 pupils,” she says. “They bring the story into the present day and relate a historic text to the subsequent history of that part of the country and the impact that the migrant labour system had on black people.

“The characters have been explored from the angle of their descendants, looking back at their ancestral shades which is central to the main theme of the book,” she adds. “I am extremely pleased that the debate existing in the book is being dealt with in this way which involves audiences and explores not only characters but issues which are relevant today. I am looking forward to seeing the end result.”

Apart from its sweeping storyline, Shades exists on many levels. The novel reflects a crucial period in the history of South Africa as well as a portrayal of black/white relationships of the time. It also deals with the part missionaries played in converting indigenous people to Christianity as well as Victorian modes of behaviour for young people of “good upbringing”. The title arises from the question of how respect for the spirit world impacts on traditional tribal society.

The cast includes Ben Voss (this year’s winner of the FNB Vita award for Best Supporting Actor, last seen in Seeing Red), Nathi Kunene (FNB Vita winner for Master Harold … and the Boys), Tex Texeira (remembered for his outstanding performance in A Report to the Academy), Stacey Taylor (currently in Piaf), Teboho Hlahane (last seen in Seeing Red) and Natalie Toyne (currently appearing in Rewind to Blu at Blu).

Shades of Marguerite Poland is available to tour. All bookings through Peter Gardner on (031) 209-2818.




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