The National Arts Festival pretty much reflects the theatre scene as a whole. There is still not enough black theatre, and there are not enough black audience members. It’s largely a matter of economics but it’s also related to artistic will.
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“All criticism is a form of autobiography,” said Oscar Wilde, according to the programme note. Gulp! Playwright and novelist Craig Higginson at his best is a beautiful writer, and he’s at his best in The Imagined Land, promoted as “a new state of the nation play”.
Books suspended in mid-air are part of the set for Craig Higginson’s new play, The Imagined Land. In this way, Southern Africa’s literary past and present looms over Higginson’s new work, figuratively as well as literally. The production, which follows the story of a biographer who befriends one of his favourite writers and tries to write her life story, is inspired by the lives of novelists Doris Lessing and Nadine Gordimer. According to Higginson, the play is partly informed by true events. “Some years ago Gordimer had a young biographer from Trinidad, and she agreed to let him be her official biographer, but then their relationship went sour and she withdrew from the project,” he says. “That was the trigger for the play, but I wanted to make sure that it was not about that particular situation, so I’ve actually drawn a lot of my own family backstory into the play for the context of the story.”
The star of the Market Theatre’s ambitious production of Craig Higginson’s Little Foot is designer Neil Coppen. His Sterkfontein set overwhelms us and the actors. It moves and releases ancestral spirits without the aid of CGI. His creature costumes (with Noluthando Lobese) and masks are a wonder to behold.
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