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Tuesday, December 16, 2014


An invaluable asset to upcoming as well as established directors. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Written by well-known Durban theatre-makers, Roel Twijnstra and Emma Durden, Theatre Directing in South Africa will undoubtedly provide an invaluable asset to anyone starting off as a director in the volatile performing arts field we call theatre!

Fronted by interviews from ten South African contemporary theatre directors/creators, the publication looks at the process of directing from all angles. Young directors – as well as established ones - can learn from this wealth of theory and practice experience.

Guidance is given in the understanding of the various genres from tragedy to comedy which, in turn, influence acting styles, timing and movement. Then there are issues that considerably impact on South Africa theatre-making such as storytelling, township theatre, street theatre and site specific work.

There’s advice and clarity on workshopping as well as dealing with actors, designers and the rehearsal process. Directing is not just about telling a cast how to say their lines or where they are on stage when they say them. Directors need to generate trust from their cast who, if they are of a high standing, are putting their professional lives at risk, especially if the relationship is a new one.

If they are to get the best out of their cast, directors need to be mentors, counsellors, confidantes and psychologists as well as having the capacity to calm nerves and instil confidence! At the same time, the buck stops with the director so skills are required in terms of discipline and professionalism.

However, while it can tend towards the academic, the book doesn’t read like a lesson or a lecture but rather as an engaging and interactive process. Writers and actors – and indeed, technicians – could also benefit from this informative publication which gives a greater understanding as to the role of a director.

There is also a valuable section on Entrepreneurship. This is a strong buzz word in the arts world at the moment and it is an important skill to acquire as the arts are not self-sufficient. Therefore, an upcoming director may also be required to be an administrator as well as a publicist.

Speaking with my director’s cap on, I was fascinated and informed by the interviews with ten South African contemporary theatre directors/creators who have generously shared their vision, skills and methods These are Simthembile Prince Lamla, Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom, Greg Homann, Amy Jeptha, Pusetso Thibedi, Lara Foot, Zinzi Princess Mhlongo, Neil Coppen, Brett Bailey and Bheki Mkhwane.

None of us should become so entrenched in our work that we ignore what’s happening in the world around us as this impacts both on performers and audiences. Something that worked in the 70’s or the 80’s might need a rethink for today’s wider audience in South Africa. While keeping the essence of the production, one needs to be sure that its impact is felt now as strongly as it was when it was written.

Published by Jacana, Theatre Directing In South Africa was made possible through generous grants from Twist Theatre Development Projects supported by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The book is a collaboration with the drama department of UKZN (Howard College) and UKZN- Pietermaritzburg campus.

Theatre Directing In South Africa costs R100 (excluding postage and packaging). To order, email – Caroline Smart