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Sunday, May 8, 2011


(Rajesh Gopie and Avershree Maistry))

Theatre Art Projects International in Association with Rajesh Gopie will present the Coolie Odyssey at the Hexagon Theatre in Pietermaritzburg for a commemorative season honouring the Indian legacy and heritage in South Africa. This follows a critically acclaimed international tour and comes direct from the Market Theatre in Johannesburg.

Rajesh Gopie’s delicate and insightful production looks at the lives of indentured workers from India, who arrived in Natal to work on the sugar plantations. The work is written and directed by Rajesh Gopie, who is perhaps best known for writing and performing in the multi-award winning one-hander hit Out of Bounds.

The Coolie Odyssey premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2002, before enjoying a highly-successful season at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. It focuses on the indenture of workers from India for the sugar plantations in Natal between the years 1860 to 1911. It combines compassion with humour to reveal important insights into the identity of South African Indians, their role, significance, and contribution to out country’s narrative, and the ongoing issues of race relations and nation-building.

Its plot unfolds as the story-teller - a monkey with memories of previous human incarnations - types up his story on an old typewriter. His story unveils the life of Ramlal Kilhari, an indentured labourer, who arrived in Durban in 1888. We follow Ramlal as he searches for identity, belonging and salvation against the backdrop of those pioneering colonial times. The scope of this play is panoramic, yet detailed and nuanced with pathos, live musical accompaniment and theatrical imagination.

The cast includes newcomers Yateen Dayaram, Avershree Maistry and Don Mosenye as well as seasoned actors Conrad Kemp and Rajesh Gopie. The live score is sung by Mumbai-based Sufi singing star, Anuraag Dounidyal. Lighting design is by Glen Olsen with set design by Hugo Le Roux and costume design by Andrew Verster.

the Coolie Odyssey runs from May 18 to 28 at The Hexagon Theatre on the UKZN Pietermaritzburg campus. There are a number of performances set aside for schools. Special offer to all organizations, clubs and schools for a fundraising option - buy an entire performance of the show from May 18 to 22 for half the price and fundraise for your school. R15,000 buys 300 seats at R50 a seat. Normal price is R100! All bookings through The Hexagon Theatre on 033 260 5537.