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‘The air is full of our cries’: staging Godot during apartheid South Africa

McFrederick, M. ORCID: (2020) ‘The air is full of our cries’: staging Godot during apartheid South Africa. In: Beckett and Politics. Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 195-211. ISBN 9783030471095

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-47110-1


In 1980 the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town staged Waiting for Godot when apartheid divided South Africa. The production was directed and designed by the English playwright Donald Howarth and used an interracial cast, including the legendary South African actors, John Kani and Winston Ntshona as Vladimir and Estragon, at a time when the nation’s policies of racial segregation also affected South African theatres. As Cóilín Parsons has suggested, the production “has retained a certain celebrity status” in South African theatre history and in Beckettian performance histories, where it is frequently referenced alongside Ilan Ronen and Susan Sontag’s respective productions in Israel and Sarajevo, as politically situated presentations of Beckett’s tragicomedy. Despite the cultural memory attached to the Baxter Theatre production, it remains the least examined of these politicised performance histories. Supported by historiographical methods and extended interviews with Howarth and the actor Pieter-Dirk Uys, as well as access to original documentation from Howarth’s private archive, this chapter offers new readings into this seminal South African production and the neglected politics of Beckett and race on South African and international stages.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Samuel Beckett Research Centre
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:94954
Uncontrolled Keywords:Samuel Beckett, Politics, South Africa, Baxter Theatre, Donald Howarth
Publisher:Palgrave MacMillan


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