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Saturday, June 29, 2013


(Martin le Maitre, Nhlakanipho Manqele & Peter Gardner)

Writer/producer Duncan Buwalda offers an intriguing play with a “what if” scenario. (Review by Keith Millar)

Two of South Africa’s heavyweights of history, supreme empire builder Cecil John Rhodes, and one of the ANC’s founding fathers, Sol Plaatje, meet and form a friendship during the siege of Kimberly in 1899.

Only, this meeting never actually took place. While Rhodes was, in fact, in Kimberly during the siege, Plaatje was based in Mafeking at the time.

What writer Duncan Buwalda is offering in his intriguing play - currently appearing at the National Arts Festvial - is a “what if” scenario. What if these two intellectual giants had, in fact, met? What could have transpired - and what impact could it have had on the history of South Africa?

In the play, the two build up a strong relationship based on mutual respect and admiration. They develop a warm and affectionate friendship and are able to share their future plans and dreams.

Rhodes, the embodiment of British imperialism, was a complex character. He was a rich and powerful man who preached Christian values but practiced racism. He was also-  according to many historians - a closet homosexual. Plaatje was a gifted and versatile family man who devoted his life to the struggle of the black people of South Africa. The fundamental differences between the two men inevitably lead to a showdown which causes heartbreak and bitterness.

The role of Cecil John Rhodes is played by Martin le Maitre. He gives a powerful and emotive performance in portraying this arrogant, self-serving bully with feet of clay. By contrast, Nhlakanipho Manqele’s is more genteel and subtle in his depiction of Solomon T Plaatje. Both are admirable in their roles and give compelling performances.

The supporting cast is made up of experienced and skilled actors. Peter Gardner plays the military commander of Kimberley, Colonel Kekewich, who is constantly at loggerheads with Rhodes. Frank Graham is Doctor Smartt and Adam Dore is the Newspaper Seller.

Hinterland is directed by theatre veteran Caroline Smart. Her experience is obvious in the clever set where, despite the set restrictions of a festival production (very little time between shows), clever use has been made of a few tables and chairs, drapes and props to invoke a Victorian atmosphere for the work. It is also helped by the use of Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory as linking music, and with sound effects such as a vintage steam engine.

Hinterland is a thinking person’s drama. Everyone will have their own ideas of what could have happened if these two iconic leaders had met, and what impact it could have had on our country.

The remaining performances of Hinterland will take place at the Hanger as follows: Saturday June 29 at 13h00 and Sunday June 30 at 12h30. Tickets are R60 (full) and R50 (student/scholar) – Keith Millar

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