A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

HAPPY NATIVES (article first published : 2003-05-23)

Durban writer, actor, director Greig Coetzee has written a “wickedly amusing satire”, Happy Natives – which wowed international critics and audiences at last year’s Edinburgh Festival, and is about to embark on a nationwide tour which kicks off at the Grahamstown Festival at the end of June.

In the new South African where the brightly branded “rainbow nation” is divided by memories of apartheid; enormous economic and social disparities; uneasy relationships and impossible expectations, two mates “Kenneth” (Coetzee) and “Mto” (Sello Sebotsane) are desperate to get a government contract using theatre to sell the country to foreign investors.

Kenneth – all froth, ideas and ad agency lingo – has been working overseas but is back living with his parents now that his work permit has expired. The affable Mto - the son of a freedom fighter - is getting established as an actor, and has bought a house in a previously-white Durban suburb. The two realise that the Government commission comes with a price tag – the cultural minister is only interested in a glowing squeaky clean portrait of South Africa –the truth of course comes a poor second to the imperative of selling the country as a success story.

Coetzee and Sebotsane jointly play a host of characters – a total of eight or so roles: a TV woman project manager; Prudence the neighbour’s domestic worker, Jimmy the patronising gun toting ex-border guard neighbour and the cultural minister.

Happy Natives began as a facetious commend during the Edinburgh Fringe 2000 – a response to my growing concern that theatre from Africa presented outside of Africa seemed to follow one or more of three themes: “wretchedness”, “triumph over adversity” or “happy dancing natives”,” explains Greig. “While I do not dispute the validity and relevance of these stories (my own piece White Men With Weapons is a tale of wretchedness) it is unfortunate that they appear to overwhelm the many other stories to be told about a very complex continent.”

Ian Shuttleworth of the Financial Times comments: “Coetzee’s play is excellent at showing misunderstanding and suspicion as part of the fabric of life, but never becomes bludgeoning. Characters sound familiar fundamental notes then carry us off along unexpected lively tunes counterpointing seriousness with deadpan cynicism and dramatic irony from which no character of any race escapes.”

Happy Natives is an absorbing gem of a snapshot of modern South African life,” says the Metro’s Eddie Harrison.

Happy Natives is presented by B&R Productions in association with Soho Theatre in London. It is directed by Christine Harmar-Brown, designed by Emma Donovan and lighting design by Flick Ansell.




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart