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RADIO DRAMA BACK ON SAFM (article first published : 2006-03-18)

SAfm will herald the return to its airwaves of radio drama in English with a new play about the life of Robert Sobukwe specially commissioned for Human Rights Day.

SAfm last broadcast drama productions in the late 90s but from March 21, the station will be broadcasting two and a half hours of drama a week across a number of daily and weekly drama slots.

“We are already the country's leading broadcaster of news and information in English and we are passionate about creating a rich, new tradition of South African radio drama - also in English - for our listeners,” says SAfm Station Manager, Mapule Mbhalati. “For the first time the output will be 100% locally produced with no productions bought in from overseas.”

The SAfm new weekly drama schedule includes a daily drama serial from Mondays to Thursdays from 19h45 to 20h00, an hourly drama programme on Saturdays from 19h00 to 20h00 and a half-hour drama on Sundays from 15h30 to 16h00.

The focus is on commissioning new work, such as the Sobukwe play, that deals with themes relevant to South Africa in the early 21st century and on nurturing a new generation of radio writers, actors and producers.

Julia-Ann Malone, SAfm drama producer, who commissioned the new production, says radio provides a much-needed platform to aspiring actors and writers.

“Radio is a fertile breeding ground for new practitioners and new ideas because its costs are lower and it can take more risks. Writers can let their imaginations run free and be truly innovative. Our new drama output is a vital opportunity for the huge amount of creative talent in this country.

“The Sobukwe play, called The Africanist, follows the life of Robert Sobukwe from his early days in politics, to his time as leader of the Pan Africanist Congress to his solitary confinement on Robben Island,” Julia-Ann Malone continues. “It is the work of accomplished South African dramatist Anthony Akerman (Somewhere on the Border, Dark Outsider).”

Akerman was initially wary of writing about this controversial figure who is often perceived as anti-white. “I then read Benjamin Pogrund's How Can Man Die Better: The Life of Robert Sobukwe on which the play is based,” he says. “Pogrund was a close personal friend of Sobukwe - and the man I encountered in these pages was someone I would also have felt privileged to count as a friend. Robert Sobukwe was a great surprise to me and I'm sure he'll be as much of a surprise to everyone who listens to The Africanist.”

As well as the current slots, plans are also being made for a daily radio soap as well as abridged book readings and short stories. The drama producers at SAfm are also building relationships with community theatres around the country in order to discover and foster new talent. They are also intending to record more plays on location.

Added Mapule Mbhalati: ”We are working very hard in training new drama producers, writers and actors from all sectors of our society and are excited by their potential new stories rooted in South Africa and Africa.”

The re-introduction of drama forms part of a new SAfm line up to be launched from the March 23 2006.

The Africanist by Anthony Akerman will be broadcast on SAfm on March 21 (Human Rights Day) from 12h00 to 13h00. The part of Robert Sobukwe will be played by Moagi Modise.




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