Towards Better Democracy

Good words, well written, better the world. Good literature betters the world immeasurably.

Fuzzy Thinking and Wikileaks


In considering the question in the car on the way home from the office the other day; what do I bring to writing? it struck me – an analytical mind. Why is this valuable? Because so much that I read, even from highly educated, even gifted, writers contains fuzzy thinking.

Now fuzzy logic is legitimate as a science.  But fuzzy thinking is helpful to no reader.  What fuzzy thinking indicates is that the writer has not thought clearly what he or she is trying to say; is being lazy in not taking the trouble to examine the topic, concept or idea thoroughly to the extent that the topic and the reader deserve. Fuzzy thinking can also, more egregiously, indicate a willingness to swallow some given material whole. I don’t wish to single out an individual example of such writing.  Let’s instead look at example topics. There are so many of them in the current public discourse: Wikileaks, War in Iraq/Afghanistan,  the war on terror.

In taking any of one these examples, or any other, the objective is not to argue what is right and what is wrong but to sort through the topic in a more objective way.  Emotions notoriously blur our thinking.  Highly emotional states lead to the suspension of rational thought. Which is not to say that emotions do not have their place. Absolutely they do.

However, an emotional appeal on the part of a speaker or writer should be placed to one side as one considers the merits and demerits of whatever it is that the speaker or writer is trying to persuade us of. Usually, such emotional appeals are connected with a call to act. For any of us to act without clear knowledge of why we are acting is to act dangerously. Quite apart from other considerations, if we are to act on emotional appeals without due consideration for our responsibilities connected to the act, our act will certainly result in unintended consequences. And, on occasion, the consequences can be harsh indeed.

Wikileaks. It seems to me that the what of Wikileaks constantly gets conflated with the how.  No real discussion on the value or otherwise of Wikileaks can take place without the separation and examination of the two aspects. The what of Wikileaks will sort wheat from chaff.  If you believe in open government, and in oversight of government, then the what of Wikileaks will be central to the discussion.

If, on the other hand, you believe that government knows best, or in any dilution of this view, then discussion of the what of Wikileaks is rendered moot and any discussion of the how of Wikileaks made irrelevant.  If you disagree with the first. then you will certainly disagree with the second.

If, however, you agree with the first proposition, the what of Wikileaks, then question of the how of Wikileaks becomes vital. If you conflate the two, you seriously undermine the possibility of debating the issue at all.

Why is the what of Wikileaks important?  Because Wikileaks, as presently constituted, has never previously existed. Wikileaks is not like a volcano which suddenly pops up out of nowhere, during the night.  No need to debate the what and how of the volcano.  Just get out of its bloody way and be as quick as you can, while you can.

In other words, we need to take the time and trouble to consider what Wikileaks is. Only in this way will Wikileaks be properly and responsibly absorbed as a permanent feature into society.

I don’t know if we will get to the how of Wikileaks in the space of the present discussion. Whether we do or not, the what of Wikileaks is the place to start.

So what is Wikileaks. The Wikileaks site says, “Our goal is to bring important news and information to the public.”

This is a little disingenuous. This is their primary goal? Lots of outlets do this already but they are not like Wikileaks. Many news organizations, as presently constituted, published leaked information, frequently at governments behest. Is this what Wikileaks exists to do? Prior to the existence of Wikileaks, the most spectacular leak in recent times, to my mind, was the Valery Plame affair. How would Wikileaks have handled that? Of course, we don’t know. For the most part, other than reporting leaks from government insiders released for political advantage, the media, as presently constituted, is not much given to reporting leaks.

What the traditional media does do is to take a leak and subject to one of the most valuable activities that we in a democracy can hope to have: investigative journalism. This is exactly what happened in the case of the Pentagon Papers.

The New York Times and The Sunday Times in London have, over the years, conducted substantial investigative reportage. A very limited number of television programs have conducted similar exercises. Not all investigative reporting results from leaks, naturally. The Hitler Diaries, for example, did not.

Then again, for a variety of reasons, I am quite sure that not all substantial leaks received by such newspapers are investigated. And, furthermore, I am equally sure, that not all such investigative efforts get reported. The Sunday Times has suspended a number on the basis of cost, time and, probably most crucially, patience. Papers have deadlines. News quickly becomes history.

It is telling that the first thing that Wikileaks did with both the Afghan material and the War in Iraq data was to contact the New York Times, The Guardian in England and Der Spiegel in Germany. All three newspapers were given privileged access to the information. In other words, before Wikileaks publicly announced they had the material. The condition for access by the three newspapers was not to publish in advance of a date set by Wikileaks.

Astonishingly, this aspect of Wikileaks behaviour has been very little discussed, if at all. Each newspaper, naturally, prepared an article discussing why it agreed to partner with Wikileaks in the exposure, the Guardian’s being quite the best of these. Elsewhere the question does not appear to have been asked, with the notable exception of “Wikileaks: Three Digital Myths” by Christian Christensen, published by Le Monde Diplomatique, English Edition, August 9, 2010.

Before we look to what, if anything, Le Monde brings to the table by way of argument, let’s note the following.

Wikileaks without these newspapers is a fatally flawed data dump. You can offer free sand, but if people don’t have trucks with which to haul it away, you’ll be left with tons of unwanted sand on your hands.

I don’t know what the gigabyte size of the 92,000 files deposited with Wikileaks is. What I do know is that few people have the resources, willingness and sheer ingenuity which the Guardian exhibited in conducting an analysis of the first set of material (the Afghan files).

You begin to see why so many writers and commentators have conflated the topic. To get to the quick quickly. It is an exhaustive process. That is why debate on the topic is so important, No one person can bring all the candles to the table. I bring one candle with this article and Christian Christensen at Le Monde brings another.

It is notable that Wikileaks carefully chose its newsboys. The cache of gold standard journalism lends a credibility to the whole exercise that a digital outlet might not. Credibility is perhaps at the centre of the whole exercise as Christensen rightly observes (Three Digital Myths).

It is also notable that the three newspapers in question, and again, this is an essential ingredient in the mix, have a substantial, well established, online presence, each having its own particular strength.

Not central to the present discussion, but worth noticing in passing, is Christensen’s astonishment at Bill Keller (the head man at the NYT)’s role in mediating with the powers in Washington before publication. Newspapers, and media generally, are already a free (as in the government doesn’t pay, we taxpayers do) information arm of government to be freely used whenever the government chooses. The press never says no.

Consider just a few examples: the now established practice of embedding journalists in war (American led?) reporting, the government ordered news blackouts during anti-terrorist activities. the swallowing whole and reporting completely undigested of government press releases and press statements.

Bill Keller’s role is indeed unenviable in this affair. He has one eye on appeasing government and the other eye on advertisers, some of whom have a substantial political presence in Washington. Any one of them can threaten to pull the financial rug of advertising from under the NYT‘s feet. Such power can be savoured by those who have it. And the NYT differs in kind from Wikileaks. The NYT has, in effect, a host government. No wonder Bill Keller shoots off to Washington. His company is both registered as a commercial entity within the US and bound by US laws. The NYT is a good American Citizen like any other.

But what is Wikileaks? Good question. For now, I don’t think we know. We have established that Wikileaks does not “bring important news and information to the public.” Others, appointed by Wikileaks, are doing that. More accurately, Wikileaks brings the story to the newspapers and they decide whether, and in what form, to publish. Just like any reader’s letter.

So, if Wikileaks does not “bring important news and information to the public,” what does it do? Well, it says, “We provide an innovative, secure and anonymous way for sources to leak information to our journalists (our electronic drop box).” Oh yes, it does this and how! It does this in spades.

Julian Assange, as the editor of Wikileaks, may not be the most effective leader, but as the master mind for “innovative, secure and anonymous” depositing of anonymous material he is without peer. Can the organization run without him? Different question, can the organization survive without him? Difficult to know. He always has to stay at least one step ahead of those who would seek to shut Wikileaks down.

And the future for Wikileaks? Pirate music on the web has been destroyed by a determined music industry association. Pirate video has been met by strong laws (in the US) and careful encryption of source material. Pirate software … I would say the jury is still out on that one. In this, the example of the music industry’s behaviour is salutary. Successfully prosecute a few 18 year old students and 84 year old grandmothers, and scare the pants off millions.

And here’s how the US will do it. Casablanca style, round up a few suspects, subject them to interminable courts cases using obscure and little known laws and scare potential leakers into silence. Consider the laws used in the successful breakup of the Mob. Arcane to say the least. But effective. Took years, too. And here is the secret ingredient of success. Governments have staying power in the pursuit of their objectives. Tie your adversary up in court long enough and the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

So the question of the what of Wikileaks can be couched in this way: If Wilikleaks is to be seen as an adversary of governments as powerful as the United States’, its future seems dim. If I were in Washington, with as many secrets as the US Government has to hide, some of them earth shattering were they to be leaked, I would not feel comfortable wondering when the next data bombshell will burst. Washington has been nonchalant over this particular burst (the Iraqi war files). It may not be over the next.

Is there a different role for Wikileaks. Well, that is a different what and a different debate. A question that can be asked is: Is the present role of Wikileaks valuable and, if so, to whom? That would have to be subject of another column.

Filed under: Culture, , , , , , ,

Skating on Glass


Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky published by Europa Editions, 2010.

I am a big fan of the publishers, Europa Editions. I admire the fact that they launched into the American market in the face of a muckle heap of skepticism.

And they have been clever. They have not restricted themselves to translations. Fay Weldon is their latest English language author. And within translations, they have been clever; they publish European Noir (crime, detective, dahling, that sort of thing).

Bronsky fits neither of those categories. I puzzle. She uses a nom de plume (there he goes again, why can’t that man speak English? Cuz pseudonym sounds awful). Alina Bronsky seems, based on the strength of this novel, a thoroughly accomplished woman.

The book is, I suppose, a coming of age novel.

At a metaphoric level, though, there appears to be something else going on. Take the title. Broken glass – bit menacing, no? And then one can play with it: Broken Grass Plark.

Although the book is set in and around Frankfurt, the setting feels more like Berlin. A Berlin of a recently fallen wall. I don’t know Frankfurt. There may be glass parks there. And a large Russian immigrant population. But Berlin fits better … in my mind.

I enjoyed the principal character, Sascha. She is sympathetically drawn and I liked her. Sascha is very much in line with a series of spunky young women whom a whole slew of European women writers have employed as their their central character; Magda in Dorota Maslowska’s Snow White and Russian Red,

http://www.amazon.com/Snow-White-Russian-Dorota-Maslowska/dp/0802170013/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1288149016&sr=1-1

The unnamed character in Melissa P’s A Hundred Strokes of the Brush Before Bed (mmmn, a de Sadian title, that one),

http://www.amazon.com/Hundred-Strokes-Brush-Before-Paperback/dp/1852427884/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1288149096&sr=1-2-fkmr0

Helen in Wetlands of Charlotte Roche.

http://www.amazon.com/Wetlands-Charlotte-Roche/dp/0802144691/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288149231&sr=1-3

These young women (the heroines, not necessarily the authors) are each of them independent, resourceful, willful; if not punk-like, then fierce. And they are young, all around eighteen. Although they can be younger as is the case with Paloma, the 12 year old in Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

http://www.amazon.com/Elegance-Hedgehog-Muriel-Barbery/dp/1933372605/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1288149799&sr=1-1

Parenthetically, and staying for a moment with titles, Barbery, being a philosopher in real life, may be echoing Isiah Berlin’s famous essay, The Hedgehog and the Fox with her title.
Note that I am drawing attention to similarities in the respective heroines, not necessarily the books.

Anyway, to get past the busy stuff and back to where we were and the doings of the young Sascha. Let me come straight out and say I found the ending disappointing. I am not going to give it away, never fear. But it is too neat and tidy, and disposes of everything, no doubt. But for a novel which is proudly realistic, it is not, well, realistic.

Peter, Volker Trebor’s son is also not realistic. He seems wet, pampered and spoiled, and I see no reason why Sascha should give him a passing glance never mind spending time with him.

Volker, on the other hand, is a better cut, but still not well drawn. He seems strong but then appears wet at the edges. Why the emphasis on strong males? Because I can’t imagine Sascha being attracted to anything else. She hates men for reasons the book makes perfectly clear.

The plush comfortable Trebor household – now that is convincing. There is every reason, given Sascha’s uncomfortable surroundings, that she should find the Trebor accommodation very enticing. At eighteen, yanked from an immigrant ghetto to a comfy country house, who wouldn’t?

On the other hand, the scene at the hospital is simply cardboard cutout. This is Nursie and Doc not ER. “Pass the stethoscope, will you Nurse?” Eught!

I suppose everyone has a favourite scene from anything they have enjoyed: play, film, book, etc. And I have mine from this.

Sascha is in the foyer of the publishing building where she will meet Volker Trebor.

“Ms Mahler will be down to get you in a moment.”
“To get me?” I am briefly startled. The receptionist can’t do anything about my associations. [p57]

– – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –

“You are here about Ms. Mahler’s article,” the man [Volker] says perceptively.
I nod.
“What do you think of it?” he asks.
“It’s shit,” I say.
Ms. Mahler tries to smile but can’t. [59]

– – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –

You are capable of reading, Ms. Naimann [Sascha], I think to myself. You taught yourself how to read when you were four…
So read it.

I look at him quizzically.

“Call me when you think of something I can do,” he says. [p61]

– – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –

That’s when I see them—the shoes.
I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t tripped over them. They’re big, stained leather shoes. The laces hang limply from them.
Huh, I think lethargically , and shove them aside with my foot. I want to go straight to my room. But I stop at the door to my room and turn around to look back at the shoes again.

It’s a riddle, I think. A pear, a banana, an apple, and a circular saw: which one of these things is not like the rest? [p64]

– – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –  ~ – – – – – – – – –

Oh, and the girls, the young women. In all of the books mentioned, besides being independent, resourceful and willful, each of them is bright; fiercely so. That makes them doubly attractive as characters.


Filed under: Book Review, , , ,

Just Dangerous or Distinctly Lethal?


Over the years I have seen many theatre productions of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ master work, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, read more than one full translation of the novel, and seen both Steven Frears’ film version, which uses Christopher Hampton’s script, and Milos Forman’s film version.

None of these prepare you for Hampton’s script of Dangerous Liaisons.

Stripped of the movement and motion of a stage production, of the light and colour of film, and of the intervening narrative passages of the book, one is left face to face with the two central characters who prowl round each other like caged tiger and lion in ever tightening circles.

No fang or claw is left unbared. No snide remark held back. No sarcasm masked.

This is chess played with bloodsucker pieces. The poisonous Queen of Marquise de Merteuil playing against the almost equally poisonous Knight (Rook) of Vicomte de Valmont.

They hiss and slither across the finely wrought board of the aristocratic life in which each is so intensely entwined. The other characters are pawns in the play of the two ex-lovers.

At the same time, the two, Merteuil and Valmont, play the pieces on their board like perverse chess-players, playing not to win but to inflict damage.

In this game, the winner will happily drown with the loser, just as long as the loser drowns. This is a chess game out of Dante’s Hell.

And the reader is held close enough by Christopher Hampton’s script to sense the quiver of Valmont’s nostrils as he gives yet another thrust.

Hampton has stripped the novel to its essentials. Only the naked muscles of the novel’s workings are left to us.

We are held so close to the action of the play we are hypnotized by the smell of Merteuil’s rouge and powder as she oils yet another barb.

The artificiality of each of their lives is not stiff but has the suppressed, compressed power of a huge, tightly coiled spring. They each take turns to tighten the coil.

Who will be first to release the ratchet and allow the spring to release in an instant of almost unimaginable power?

This is backlash so swift as to be all but imperceptible in its movement. Equally though, as great as is the speed of the uncoiling spring, is the power of the spring unleashed.

The tension tightens and tightens, notch upon notch. Morality is stretched thinner and thinner to breaking point.

Merteuil. “That’s enough!”

(All of them, even Merteuil herself, are startled by the sharpness of this involuntary remark.
Merteuil hastens to paper over the crack, by adding a quiet explanation …)

“I think we should respect the sensibilities of our friend.” [p113]

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

When Merteuil finally triumphs, it is with the gallows laugh of the hangman. Today, Valmont’s neck is severed upon the block.

Does tomorrow for Merteuil start with a fresh round with some other ex-lover?

Or does tomorrow bring for her a series of endless tomorrows, where her wails of remorse, of loss, of longing, sheel and screech fit to drown out all other sound?

Is, finally, Merteuil’s grief every bit as utterly stupendous as were the sheer wanton acts of cruelty that Merteuil and Valmont stupefyingly inflicted upon each other?

If this was, during the course of the action, the sight of morals unleashed, this then, at the end, is truly the sound of retribution.

Posted 20 October 2010 as a review of Christopher Hampton’s script version of Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos at http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/126749699

Filed under: Memoir, , , , ,

A Penny Theatre (Theater) and a Profound Play


Tales from the theatre – Three

While studying for a Masters in Theatre, I had a chance to work with Edward Albee.

Albee had been invited by the university to mount his latest play which had not yet seen public performance. Albee drew on the drama students to cast that play, and two others, presented with it.

Through working with Albee, I met Sam.

Sam had come from behind the Iron Curtain and was a lifelong fan of Edward Albee’s work.  Sam loved theatre but the repressive nature of the regimes in the Soviet block meant that he could not study the kind of theatre he liked. Most contemporary Western playwrights were viewed as decadent and, not only were performances of their plays disallowed, but the scripts themselves were held under lock and key.

As a result, Sam studied physics in which he obtained a doctorate.

He found to his amazement that the library he had access to held the scripts of the dreaded decadent Western plays which were denied the students of the Humanities. This is how he came to know of Edward Albee and many other Western playwrights.

Sam was very keen to direct, so I established a theatre company, registered as a 501(c)3, and all that.

As his first production, he wanted to put on Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists.

I thought there was some irony in a physicist wishing to mount a play of such a title but withheld comment.

The Swiss community and the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce very kindly put up funding.  Through the latter’s good offices, we were put in touch with a Swiss teacher of graphics who had just given his students an exercise to design a poster for the play. Talk of being spoilt for choice.

We chose a simple dramatic design in black and white with a hand upon a locked wooden box. We worked with the designer to integrate our theatre logo and text for the production.

For anyone who has never been involved in producing theatre, let me assure you, an eternity spans between the inception and the final production, that span of time being filled with an endless minutiae of details.

The first night, the audience were impeded on their way to the theatre by a storm which pulled down trees in the neighbourhood. We were largely unaware of this since good theatre design has walls within walls to give good soundproofing. The second night offered no such impediment.

We had established the theatre on the premise of bringing unusual theatre to the city. Good theatre.  But that not normally produced within the 48 contiguous states.

We were, therefore, somewhat apprehensive about our choice. How would audiences respond?

We were more than gratified.

In the press of the foyer at the conclusion of each performance, audience member after audience member came up to us to tell us that this was their favourite play.

Who would have known?

Filed under: Memoir, , , ,

When Coloured Girls Were Not Allowed the Play


Tales from Theatre in South Africa  – Two

An astonishing aspect of South Africa under Apartheid was that theatre was completely multiracial. On stage and off. Players and audiences. For the truth of the onstage part, look at all those Athol Fugard plays with multiracial casts, or wholly black casts. Harold and the Boys came to Broadway with the original South African cast.

The Market Theatre in Johannesburg had been completely multiracial since its inception. Sometime during 1977, after the play had completed its Broadway run, the completely black cast at the Market Theatre had been rehearsing For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf for some weeks when word came through that the playwright had denied performance of the play.

Now this was probably a good thing. It is doubtful that anyone at the American end, including Ntozake Shange, the playwright, was aware of the circumstances of the situation in Johannesburg.

It was probably a good thing because of the outcome. The cast, although deeply disappointed, had developed a strong bond with each other and were truly a working ensemble. So, what they decided to do was to create their own version. The structure very loosely followed For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. The result was quite different from the choreopoem of Ntozake’s play. The cast used the play as an inspiration for an ensemble piece where each cast member brought to the stage a tale of life in the townships.

Now the townships for Johannesburg means the vast area known as Soweto; South Western Townships. If you had been following the 2010 World Soccer Cup in South Africa you will have heard mention of it.

So, back in 1977, the women each brought to the stage a moment from the incessant hardship of life in what were then referred to as shanty towns.

For any South African viewing the result, it was an intensely heart warming piece. Outside the theatre, the walls of Apartheid were very thick.

Years later, living in America, while studying for a Masters Degree in Theatre, I had an opportunity to take a play-writing class with Ntozake Shange.

I do not remember whether I mentioned the South African experience of the canceled rehearsals of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf or not. I may have felt too self-conscious.

On the other hand, if I did mention the experience, of watching the cast in Johannesburg rehearsing Ntozake’s play and then witnessing the enormous pride with which each cast member developed her own piece for the production they finally presented, I probably could not have done justice to it in relating it, for I do not remember her response.

Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa in Xhosa)

Filed under: Memoir, , , , , ,

The Night the Theatre Went Dark


Over this weekend I picked up a copy of Athol Fugard’s Plays One, published by Faber and Faber in 1998, with an introduction by the playwright.

Opening the book took me back to 1974 and Cape Town, South Africa, still  deep in the lock of Apartheid and a particularly poignant moment.  A  poignancy entwining the bright mimosa of theatre and the dark chocking  ivy of Apartheid’s officialdom

The theatre in question was the Space Theatre on Bloem Street right in the heart of the City of Cape Town.

The hard iron fist of the enforcing of South African separateness … well, we’ll get to that.

The Space Theatre (more fully The Space / Die Ruimte / Indawo Ye Zizwe,  representing three languages of the country) had been established by  Brian Astbury as a vehicle for his actress wife, Yvonne Bryceland.  The  theatre was defiantly multiracial from the start in a country where  everything was segregated in a fiercely draconian manner:  land,  business, housing schools, transport, restaurants, cinema.

The Space was a very brave place.

Early in the spring of 1974 Katriona, a friend, called me and said that she  had got involved in a project and wanted to meet with me to discuss it.   She needed my help.

Katriona was a very adventurous young woman of whom nothing would have surprised me.  However, this particular project did.

Katriona lived with her parents up behind Bellville at the end of the Cape Flats on the road to Parow.   She was studying for a degree in psychology at the University of Cape  Town. And she was fiercely political as only young people can be.

Katriona had somehow got a part time teaching job at a coloured school in the  Cape Flats, itself a brave thing to do for a young white South African  girl.  And the head mistress of the school had asked her if she would  mount a theatre production at the school using the school children. They  were aged ranging from middle school through high school.

Katriona and I had done community theatre together in the white suburbs  where we both lived and I suppose, somehow, Katriona’s previous theatre  experience had come out in conversation with the school headmistress.

So I got together with Katriona to find out more about her project.

Katriona sounded breathless and excited. She had decided to mount a production of Pygmalion,  by George Bernard Shaw, (the original stage version of the musical My Fair Lady, right!).

Inwardly I was a little amazed.  But I tried not to show it. How on earth  were we to take somewhat disadvantaged middle to high school children  and introduce them to the speech and mannerisms of late English  Victorian society?  Far less one of them to speak Cockney?

Katriona had already cast and was rehearsing.  Her Henry Higgins was the son  of a butcher who had chopped off his own hand at the age of seven   while helping his father in the shop.  Eliza turned out to be a petite,  demure little girl of Indian origin. Both children were utterly charming  as were the other cast members. And Katriona had chosen quite the largest  boy in the school to play Colonel Pickering.

Nonetheless, they were all as shy as could be in this new role and  needed a fair amount of coaxing. As rehearsals progressed and the children mastered their lines, their confidence drew immeasurably.

Performance night approached, the shyness vanished and the easy charm I had first seen returned.

Thus on stage, in set and clothed in costume, these little jewel  children, rotated and pirouetted with style, fit for any West End  production, if not Broadway.

The cast party after the performance, with parents and school mates present, was an uproarious affair, the joyous noise of which I am sure echoed across the Cape Flats.

The lead children had rehearsed three or four times as much as supporting cast members and had formed quite a tight little band.

Katriona and I looked round for some means of treating the leads for the effort they had put in.

So we booked tickets for eight, all that would fit in Katriona’s father’s Volkswagen van which I drove (you know, the style so popular for conversion into a camper).

The tickets were for a production opening the following Friday at the Space and we had booked for the Saturday.

I do not recall the play but it was certainly something like Sizwe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard, maybe The Island, something fiercely political.

The children were terribly excited to be going to a professional theatre. The play duly opened on the Friday and was promptly banned by  the government with no further performances allowed.

Disappointed we all certainly were. However, we were able to find a  restaurant in the city which, in defiance of Apartheid laws, allowed us all in.

Filed under: Memoir, , , , ,

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