Brent Meersman writes an interesting expose on the Fugard Theatre. It offers a good explanation of what happened. I’d just like to add my two cents worth about what I think the problem is. How do we get black and coloured audiences to theatre? There was absolutely nothing at The Fugard or with Mark Dornford-May’s Isango Portabelo company that offered anything to a black or coloured audience. Mark Dornford-May’s complaint about white South Africans not attending his black work is hilarious; they were his only audience, regardless how small. How, when and with what means were black audiences supposed to access this kind of theatre; expensive, far and with totally inaccessible content? Puhleez. It is hard enough getting anyone in Cape Town to the theatre, but to have a ‘we will make it larney, shmooze British celebs at the expense of local support, and then still expect the usual white suspects to fill the seats’ attitude is beyond just a little arrogant and ironic.
I go back to my favourite bug bear. Create a theatre audience, who have a hungry desire for live performance and then create the spaces to house them. Not the other way around. Know your audience. Look at Joe Barber. They made an audience. And now they come; to The Baxter, or anywhere they perform. This is a coloured audience who totally support theatre that they feel has been made for them. What a great lesson to learn.