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WORKING CLASS HERO (article first published : 2001-08-18)

The Playhouse Company makes theatre history this month when it presents Kessie Govender's Working Class Hero, a classic among South African protest plays from the 1970s, as the inaugural production in the company's newly renovated Little Theatre.

Running from August 28 to September 9 in tandem with Durban's international racism conference, this hard-hitting dark comedy is re-staged as a showcase of its genre, and of the work of a longstanding member of Durban's theatre community.

Written and directed by Govender, Working Class Hero is set on a building construction site. It explores the tensions between black, white and Indian people through the sharply drawn dynamics of its characters, Siva, a bricklayer; Jitsen, the bricklayer's charge hand; Frank, the bricklayer's labourer; Devan, a college student; and an inspector.

The play was originally staged in 1976 by the Stable Theatre Company and ran for a three week season before being shut down by the South African security police. In its new staging, which closely follows the original script and production, Govender poses the question: what has changed over the past 25 years, in terms of inter-race relationships between South Africans? Ours is still a power-driven society in which racism is as dominant as ever.

'Working Class Hero refers particularly to the South African Indian, who in Govender's words “has become a peculiar breed in the history of today. Occupying a middle class position, he is fighting for the privileges of the upper class, and treads on the lower class whose fight of survival is too awesome in comparison with any of the privileges the Indian demands”.

In the play the builder's labourer is subjected to ongoing verbal abuse. Govender’s script offers a step by step account of the destruction of a man's soul beneath the guise of dialogue that is typically rowdy, cruel and often crassly amusing.

Starring Kessie Govender in his original pivotal role of Frank, the play features Rajesh Maharaj (another original cast member) as Siva, Thirugesan Govender as Jits, Santhiran Moonsamy as the student Anand, and Gavin Goveir as the Inspector.

Performances at 19h30 Tuesdays to Saturdays, with 14h00 Saturday matinees on September 1 and 8 September. Sunday performances at 18h00. Tickets R35 (R12,50 for schools). A discount of 10% is available for block bookings of more than 20. Booking through Dial-a-Seat on (031) 369 9444 and Ticketweb, 083 1400 500 or www.ticketweb.co.za




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