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Thursday, March 26, 2015


(David Dukas as Rhodes & Frank Graham as Dr Smartt)

This April, the Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton, Johannesburg, will present a three week season of Duncan Buwalda’s acclaimed historical comedy-drama, Hinterland.

In 2012, Hinterland was selected for the finals of the PANSA / NLDTF Festival of the Reading of New Writing in Durban. Veteran director Caroline Smart took the helm and the staged reading won three awards: Runner-up, Audience Choice and Best Director. The cast included Nic Lorentz as Rhodes with Durban actors Nhlakanipho Manqele as Plaatje, Roger Service as Lt Col Kekewich, Frank Graham as Dr Smartt and Darren King as the news vendor.

The play was selected for the Arena Programme of the 2013 National Arts Festival – one of only two South African plays to make the cut – and enjoyed a successful run. Hinterland then enjoyed a successful return season to Grahamstown on the Fringe last year.

The play is about the (fictional) meeting of two giants of South African that could have changed the course of South African history. Deeply controversial at present and more than a hundred years after his death, Cecil John Rhodes still enjoys fame and notoriety, as Southern Africa’s arch-imperialist - while the multi-talented man of letters, Sol Plaatje, was one of the ANC’s founding fathers in 1912.

The plot of Hinterland has the two men, Plaatje and Rhodes, meet while Kimberley is besieged during the Anglo-Boer War. In the autumn of his life, Rhodes, the king of diamonds, hires the young Plaatje as his new secretary and the two develop the unlikeliest of friendships, full of humour, warmth and pathos. But the country is changing and as Plaatje’s political career begins to dawn, the two men become set on a collision course which will change their lives...

For the Johannesburg season, Cecil John Rhodes is played by David Dukas, who was most recently seen in Grahamstown as Sir George Grey in Ingrid Wylde’s Princess Emma in 2012. Amazingly, Dukas can claim an ancestor, Pieter Raaff, who knew Cecil Rhodes in the years of Rhodesia’s infancy.

The role of Sol Plaatje is played by rising star Sipho Mahlatshana, who was most recently seen in the SAFTA award-winning mockumentary, Armed Response. Jeremy Richard (who recently performed in Red at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square) appears as Colonel Robert Kekewich, the garrison commander of Kimberley who ends up locking horns with the strong-willed Rhodes.

Four years down the line and still in his original role, is veteran Durban-based actor Frank Graham, as Rhodes’s personal physician, Doctor Thomas Smartt. Graham was most recently seen in the Playhouse Company’s production of West Side Story last Christmas.

Recent protest action by UCT students over a statue of Rhodes at the university has proven in dramatic fashion that Rhodes and his legacy are still hot topics in the South Africa of 2015.

“Come to Sandton to see him and another iconic South African as they were: flesh and blood men with dreams and differences, doing what they thought was best for the country,” invites the Auto & General Theatre on the Square.

Bookings are now open through the theatre’s box office on 011 883-8606 or Strictly Tickets telebooking on 082 553 5901 or book online at There are group booking discounts for schools and special interest groups.

Hinterland is also published by Junkets Publishers. Both the Johannesburg run and the book are made possible by the valuable support of the Arts & Culture Trust.