Mirror, Mirror (2007) - History

In August/September 2006, I was the artist-in-residence at the University of Cape Town’s drama school, my alma mater. One of my tasks was to write a new play for the final year acting students of 2007. * I met with the eight students who were to take part in the play to solicit ideas from them and to ascertain the issues that were of pertinence to their generation. Afterwards, I decided to write a play that articulated the concerns that I had raised in my public lecture, as a challenge to society and artists generally, and more specifically to the student actors who would be graduating and would themselves become artists in the real world of contemporary South Africa.

The first draft was submitted to the Department in October 2006, after which Professor Geoff Hyland was appointed to direct a reading of the play to obtain feedback as part of the play’s development. This reading took place in the Intimate Theatre on Wednesday 22 November 2006, with Hyland directing a fast-paced, white light only performance, with actors playing multiple characters and creating all the sound effects with their own voices and bodies.The audience – mainly UCT staff and students but also some of my invitees - responded very warmly to the piece and there were numerous constructive suggestions as to how to develop and improve the script.

UCT’s Drama School decided to enter this work as their official entry into the Student Festival that was part of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July 2007. With this as a deadline to work towards, I met with Hyland to talk through some of the challenges of the script. Based on this discussion and the feedback gleaned in November 2006, I reworked the script and delivered a new draft of the first half of the play to Hyland in May 2007, and a new draft of the second half of the play during the first week of rehearsals in June.

During the course of rehearsals, Hyland raised one or two issues in the script which I addressed, but I only saw a run-through of Mirror, Mirror a few days before it was due to leave for Grahamstown. It was here that I recognised the need for the play to have an ending that drew together the artistic themes of the play and that afternoon I wrote the poem that now ends the play.

*Another of my tasks was to deliver a public lecture which I did on the theme From Protest Theatre to the Theatre of Conformity (see recent papers on this website) in which I reflected on how theatre makers who had been vocal about apartheid had become silent in the New South Africa, despite the numerous social and other challenges of the times.

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