Oedipus and Afrikaans theater.
Afrikaans, the language that developed in South Africa among the descendants of the Dutch colonists and Malay slaves, was a "new" language that had received official recognition only in 1925 and its literature was thus at that time in its infancy. A complex web of educational and cultural ideals, nationalistic pride, and rivalry with their former colonial overlords lay behind the translations and productions of plays in Afrikaans. The Afrikaans language was a key component in the Afrikaner movement that was to be the dominant force in South African politics for most of the twentieth century.
The early years of that century were a period when Afrikaners, especially those living in the former Boer republics of the Free State and the Transvaal, were embittered against the British. This stemmed not only from their defeat in the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, but also from the harsh treatment that Boer women and children had suffered in concentration camps during the war. Their resentment toward living under British rule intensified in response to the British administration now forcing them to conduct their lives in English. The elevation of Afrikaans to equal status in 1925 meant that it had the capacity to serve in all spheres of public life and was thus a significant political and cultural milestone. But the stigma that clung to Afrikaans as a "kitchen" language did not disappear overnight. The Afrikaans language historian J. C. Steyn stresses how important it was to create a body of literature in order to enhance the regard in which the new language was held by both English and Dutch. He quotes numerous examples of contempt for the "so-called language" that was dismissed as not really a language, but "a jargon without literature," which did not have the capacity to produce finer shades of meaning. (4) It is thus understandable that the intellectual elite among the Afrikaners desired their language to develop its literature. Therefore it was important not only that Afrikaans poets, novelists, and playwrights should create new works, but also that great works of world literature should be translated into Afrikaans. This attitude is exemplified in the review of an Afrikaans translation of Shakespeares Hamlet in which the critic remarked that it was noteworthy that in every period of great creative writing in world literature the translation of masterpieces from other literatures had always been an important means for poets to enrich themselves, their language, and their literature. (5) The reviewer cited as an example of what he termed "an insatiable, restless quest" the rendering of Greek and Latin classics into English and Dutch in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He concluded that as translation had been of immeasurable value for those literatures in their golden periods, it was now desirable and necessary for Afrikaans. The spiritual strength of the great works of world literature should rightly be claimed as the spiritual strength of Afrikaans as well.
The first Afrikaans translation of Sophocles' Oedipus was performed in 1927 in the educational center of Potchefstroom, part of the Afrikaner heartland that had been colonized after the Great Trek of the nineteenth century. This migration of Dutch colonists, who would later become known as Afrikaners, from the British-ruled Cape Colony to the interior of South Africa had been driven by political and economic factors. The centenary of the Great Trek was celebrated in 1938 in Pretoria, capital of the Transvaal Province and former Boer Republic. It is significant that the city which hosted the centenary celebrations in 1938 also in the same year staged a second major Afrikaans translation of Oedipus. When the centenary of the city of Pretoria was celebrated in 1955, the same Afrikaans translation of Oedipus was again performed as a cultural highlight. The audience, media reviews, and political commentary that the production of this play excited indicate the importance attached to presenting the drama in Afrikaans. This paper will consider how the reception of Greek tragedy in the new language served to legitimate its prestige in the face of the established literary domination of English. It will also explore how the expression of cultural achievement that these productions represented was tied to the rise of Afrikaner Nationalism that was to lead, from 1948 onwards, to nearly fifty years of apartheid government.
While the Afrikaners were struggling to establish the legitimacy of their language as a vehicle for high culture as well as politics, commerce, and education, the African population of the country were engaged in struggles of their own which cannot be covered in the scope of this paper. However, it is worth bearing in mind that in a parallel development to establishing some form of theater in Afrikaans, African playwrights, like Herbert Dhlomo, were arguing and working for plays that would embody the cultural, educational, and political aspirations of Africans, albeit in English and not in the vernacular languages. (6)
It is significant that the first (7) translation of a Greek drama into Afrikaans to be published was Koning Oidipus, the text of the play which had been performed at the University of Potchefstroom in 1927. (8) Publication of the translation by L. J. (Wicus) du Plessis (1897-1968) must have been influenced by the desire to give more impetus to the literature of the fledgling language and to prove that also in the terrain of the higher arts it could hold its own. The translator was a figure of considerable interest: Wicus du Plessis was the son of a professor of theology and a brilliant student who had obtained a master's degree in Greek. (9) He was a young lecturer in Classics in 1927 when his Koning Oidipus was produced. He was thus able to work with the original Greek text, (10) already at that period an unusual accomplishment even among the intellectual elite. The teaching of Greek and Latin in South Africa was almost exclusively through the medium of English until the mid-twentieth century, but by the 1930s Greek had ceased to be taught at all but a handful of schools. (11)
It is clear from the translator's preface that he had a threefold goal. The first, to acquaint the Afrikaans public with the "classical spirit." Du Plessis regarded Oedipus as eminently suitable for this purpose because of its valuable insight into human life and classical depiction of character. In addition to this cultural and aesthetic goal, the translator wanted to meet the needs of Afrikaans students interested in literature, for an introduction to classical drama could form the basis for study of all drama; it could, therefore, be used at schools and universities. His final aim was to provide inspiration to Afrikaans speakers involved in the theater. They would see that true drama was powerful not through piling up realistic accessories, but in its concentration on a central theme and its development. (12) This last point must have been aimed as criticism at the staple fare of Afrikaans drama: comedy and historical pageants. Du Plessis thus saw the translation of Oedipus as serving to inspire and educate his fellow Afrikaners and simultaneously advancing the use of their language.
The preface of the published play is followed by an introduction in which du Plessis describes Greek tragedy, its performance, the Oedipus myth, the structure of Sophocles' play, and considerations about staging. (13) The translator emphasizes the importance of the quality of what he calls voordrag (recitation). Between the introduction and the text of the play there is a photograph of the cast in costume. The costumes seem to be white tunics for the younger players, taking the roles of Antigone, Ismene, and Teiresias's guide, as well as the herdsman and messengers, while the rest of the cast are clad in white togas. The effect is that of a different, earlier culture and, one suspects, the costume could as readily have been used for a Roman play. The emphasis is on the representation of an ideal.
Du Plessis used prose to translate the Greek dialogue and rendered only the lyrical parts in a form of verse that in his introduction he says approximates to the original rhythm. These are not the most successful parts of the translation as they are rather wooden and the vocabulary has many examples of rather dated "poetical" language, (14) but the dialogue reads very well and is in clear and simple Afrikaans that after almost a century retains its power. Unfortunately I have not been able to locate any reviews of performances of the translation, but the very fact that it was published is testimony to the impact it may have had. There are no further records of performances of du Plessis's version of Oedipus, but in itself his translation encapsulated the vision he had of his native tongue: that it could be a vehicle to transmit the greatest cultural heritage of the ancient Greeks to his own compatriots and thus put them on a par with speakers of more established Western European languages as common inheritors of the riches of past civilizations.
Du Plessis himself soon obtained further degrees in economics and law and in 1933 was appointed professor in politics and jurisprudence at the Potchefstroom University College for Christian Higher Education. In addition to his academic career he played a considerable role in Afrikaner politics and the (Afrikaner) National Party. However, differences with the prime minister and leader of the National Party at the time, Dr. H. F. Verwoerd, led to his expulsion from the party. A subsequent political commentator has claimed: "Du Plessis regarded Dr Verwoerd's racial policy as a policy of White domination and rejected it on principle and on practical grounds." (15) Based as he was in Potchefstroom and not in the capital Pretoria, which had a larger population and was the center of power, du Plessis seems to have concentrated his energies on developing the University of Potchefstroom into an institution where Afrikaner students could have access to higher education and research in their own language.
In different parts of the country the performance of plays in Afrikaans remained one of the ways advocates of Afrikaans tried to promote the prestige of the language. This proposition is supported by Leontine Sagan (1889-1974), the Austrian actress and director who settled in South Africa in the 1930s and was herself active in the development of theater and performance in South Africa in the 1930s and 1940s. She taught drama at the Jan Hofmeyr College for Bantus (Black Africans). Commenting on the attitude of South Africans to culture in the 1930s she wrote: "The Afrikaner is more enterprising in dramatic art than the English, for, in his ardent desire to seize political power, he welcomes every means, and the stage offers a good platform from which to propagate his own language." (16)
It must be said that the most popular plays with Afrikaans-speaking audiences were not tragedies, but comedies, farces, and pieces intimately connected with their own experiences and lives. One of the most successful was a historical play called Oom Paul (Uncle Paul) that was based on the life of the last president of the Transvaal Republic who had been forced into exile during the Anglo-Boer War. These plays were put on by amateur groups or by small professional companies. The theater scholar Hermien Dommisse has noted that the year that Afrikaans became an official language was also the year that a number of these small Afrikaans companies of actors were formed. There was no state support and the professional theater was dominated by the American controlled African Consolidated Theatres which imported artists from England and the United States. (17) At the time there were very few theaters, and only in the cities, while the number of cinemas, or "bioscopes" as they were known, was steadily increasing and offering competition to live theater productions.
The centenary of the Great Trek provided an ideal opportunity not only to mark the achievements of Afrikaners but also to show off the range of their language. The symbolic re-enactment of the Trek by ox wagons traveling from various parts of the Cape Province from which the Voortrekkers had departed a hundred years previously and the inauguration of the Voortrekker monument in Pretoria, as well as a festival celebrating the achievements, not only of these pioneers but also of their descendants, the present generations of Afrikaners, created a receptive environment for the staging of Afrikaans plays. (18) One of those performed to great acclaim in Pretoria in 1938 was a second translation into Afrikaans of Sophocles' Oedipus. (19) This version was by the Afrikaans poet and philhellene Dr. Theo Wassenaar (1892-1984). Unlike the majority of translators of Greek drama into Afrikaans, Wassenaar was not a trained classicist, but a medical doctor. His love of Greek culture and his enthusiasm for the civilization had been fueled by a visit to Greece. It even led him to study the ancient language and to attempt to render the highest poetry of the Greeks into his mother tongue, Afrikaans. (20) Wassenaar produced a verse translation of the Oedipus which was first published in 1938, the year of its staging in Pretoria. Wassenaar tried to stay as close to the original as is possible in a version where meter and rhyme make demands on the translator. He did not introduce his own metaphors but preserved those of the Greek. P. J. Conradie, a classical scholar, finds that Wassenaar's close connection with Sophocles' text nevertheless succeeded in producing a script that is readable, clear, and easy to understand. (21) Other critics compared his version favorably with those of the famous Dutch translations of Vondel and Boutens. (22) All critics laud the fact that the text was eminently suitable for performance. However, it is noticeable that it bears many of the distinguishing features of Afrikaans poetry of the 1930s--traces of Dutch and rather archaic words as well as a tendency to shorten certain common words such as ek (I) to 'k and bet (have) to 't. In spite of these criticisms the reception of Wassenaar's translations of Greek drama (he also produced Afrikaans versions of Antigone and Elektra) found favor with both contemporary actors and audiences.
Wassenaar used iambic pentameters for dialogue scenes, while he sometimes introduced rhyme in the choral odes. Roy Pheiffer, a professor of Afrikaans literature, has summed up the qualities of Wassenaar's translation of Greek tragedy as follows:
Regarding the quality of the translations as poetry it can be said that they are in fluent verse with a good rhythm. Wassenaar succeeded in avoiding commonplaces and maintaining a style elevated slightly above that of everyday speech which sounds natural but noble without becoming rhetorical or artificial. It is a style eminently suited to verse drama. (23)
The consensus of critical opinion on Wassenaar's Afrikaans translation of the tragedies of Sophocles is that his sober and sensitive approach made him a felicitous translator of the Greek dramas. The scholar and critic H. A. Mulder summarized Wassenaar's achievement in the form of a striking tribute: "He brings us ... into closer contact with the original emotion, with the hesitation of the puny human before the working of fate which underlies the drama." (24)
Wassenaar had been elected as a patron of the Afrikaanse Volksteater, an amateur theatrical group in Pretoria in 1935. (25) On 9 and 10 June 1938 this group staged Koning Oidipus in the Pretoria Town Hall. It was directed by Isobel de Waal, the role of Oidipus was played by H. J. Oberholzer, the role of Iokaste was played by Anna Neethling-Pohl, and the set was designed by the renowned artist J. H. Pierneef. (26) The performance was attended by the prime minister of South Africa, General J. B. M. Hertzog, and several members of his cabinet, which indicates the perceived importance of this production. (27) Extensive press coverage, both before and after the performances, indicates an expectation of a high level of public interest in the event. The preproduction articles in Afrikaans newspapers by professors of classics and Afrikaans discussed the literary background and qualities of the translation, while the subsequent reviews appeared in both Afrikaans and English newspapers. (28) In his discussion of the reception of some Afrikaans productions of Greek tragedies, P. J. Conradie perceptively notes the striking appeal made to national pride in the comments on this production. (29) The professor of Greek at the University of Pretoria expressed the wish that every Afrikaner should have the chance to see the performance, while the editorial of the Afrikaans newspaper Die Transvaler on 17 June 1938 praised the "performance of the classic Koning Oidipus by means of which the power of the Afrikaans language to embody and transmit the most moving ideas and thoughts expressed in the ancient and classical languages is proven." (30)
While reviewers generally praised the acting and overall production it was clearly a prestige event. Evidence that not every Afrikaner enjoyed it or thought it a good choice comes from a letter under the pseudonym "Oracle of Kadmos." (31) The writer implied that only the intelligentsia would have liked the choice of play and insinuated that ordinary people had no taste for such highbrow material. More serious, however, was the judgment of the most highly regarded professional Afrikaans actor of the time, Andre Huguenet: "At its best the amateur remains a necessary evil. That much is made of the overambitious selection with which amateurs overstretch themselves, can only make one pessimistic. Never can amateurs do justice to Sophokles, Aeschylus or Euripides. In addition to the lack of specialized direction, very few of the civil servants and teachers have enough experience or knowledge to play the classics." (32) That Huguenet subsequently himself played the title role in the 1955 professional production that used the same script indicates that he must at least have found the translation acceptable! (33)
The translation, publication, and staging of this second Afrikaans version of Oedipus had in common with that of du Plessis the goals of enhancing the status of the Afrikaans language and the Afrikaner community. Wassenaar also envisaged his people sharing in the artistic experience of the ancient culture that he loved. His aims were not as overtly didactic as those of du Plessis. Because Wassenaar was more closely connected with the Afrikaans establishment, his translation and its production on culturally significant occasions were arguably more influential. This is attested by the choice of bringing Wassenaar's translation of Oedipus back to the stage for one of the ma)or cultural events at the 1955 celebration of the centenary of Pretoria, the city most closely associated with Afrikaner power. This time the production was not by amateurs, since a professional theater organization, which produced plays in Afrikaans as well as English, had been established in 1947.
The founding of the National Theatre Organization is evidence that in the sphere of drama and the theater Afrikaans had attained a memorable landmark, recognition of cultural parity with English. The name of the new body reflected this equality: in Afrikaans it was called "Nasionale Teater Organisasie" and thus could be shortened to NTO in both languages. The nature and purpose of this body are succinctly sketched by Loren Kruger:
Led by Afrikaans educator, P. B. B. Breytenbach and including Afrikaans academics as well as directors Huguenet and Neethling-Pohl alongside Donald Inskip (head of Drama at the University of Cape Town) and [Leontine] Sagan herself, the Board defined its "people's theatre" as one that intended to include indigenous Afrikaans drama as well as English and European classics and to reach outlying (mostly Afrikaans) communities as well as the habitual (mostly English-speaking) theatre-goers in the cities. In the founders' view, the NTO's goal was to forge a South African nation out of the unity between Boer and Briton and, by silent implication, out of the exclusion of the majority of the population. (34)
The establishment of the NTO was proof that Afrikaans had left behind its status as "kitchen" language. It signaled a notable victory for Afrikaners, since their language would not have been taken seriously in the context of high culture a few decades previously. The implicit ban on the participation of the indigenous population is not only indicative of the social realities of the time but also of the racial policy which was to be put into practice when the National Party gained power in the national election of 1948.
As noted above, the NTO chose Wassenaar's Koning Oidipus as their contribution to the centenary festivities of Pretoria in 1955, and once again it was staged in the Pretoria Town Hall (with five performances from 9 to 13 August). Oidipus was played by Andre Huguenet with the leading Afrikaans actress Anna Neethling-Pohl again appearing in the role of Iokaste. The Dutch director, Johan de Meester, had been appointed to take charge, and music for the production was composed by Jurriaan Andriessen. This time there was even wider press coverage in newspapers as far afield as Cape Town and Bloemfontein before the opening. (35) The emphasis was on the grandeur and prestige of the production. The significance of the occasion was enhanced by an invitation to the cabinet to attend the first night. Critics lauded the skill with which the roles of Oidipus and Iokaste had been interpreted. It was reiterated that the combination of the great classic of world literature with South Africa's own language was proof that the young culture was ready to take its place alongside established cultural icons. (36) The critics were unanimous in their praise for Huguenet's interpretation of the title role.
The actor's own admiration for this tragedy and his attachment to the role are reflected in his choice of Sophocles' Oedipus in 1956 to commemorate his thirty years on the stage. However, the Afrikaans translation was staged only once because audiences in Cape Town--Huguenet's choice of location for his celebration--were predominantly Anglophone; the remaining performances at the Labia Theatre were therefore in English. (37) Huguenet himself directed this 1956 production of Oedipus. In the cast, as herdsman, was the young actor Athol Fugard who is, of course, now known internationally as an outstandingly gifted playwright, director, and actor. But in Oedipus in 1956 he was making his first stage appearance. This meeting with Huguenet would, nearly fifty years later, provide Fugard with the pivotal feature for his Exits and Entrances, (38) a play that draws upon the lives and work of both the grand old man of the theater and the young actor who was also an aspiring playwright.
Although Exits and Entrances, which is based on biographical details of Huguenet and Fugard, whose encounter and lives provide the raw material for the plot, is set in 1956 and 1961, the play subtly reflects the radical political changes in South Africa in the last decade of the twentieth century. The first fully democratic elections of 1994 brought an end to the domination of the National Party. Afrikaans and English lost their privileged status as the only official languages. The new democratic constitution not only provides for universal suffrage but also recognizes eleven official languages. From the vantage point of this new dispensation, Fugard uses his involvement with and knowledge of the career of Huguenet to examine the struggle to establish theater in South Africa, and particularly theater providing the classics of world literature. He also casts a critical eye on the cultural and political aspirations of the Afrikaners who had been so proudly involved in the two Afrikaans versions of Oedipus. At least two other plays feature Huguenet as protagonist, (39) while a third, Mirakel (1993), by Reza de Wet, is generally acknowledged to be based on Huguenet's life and work. The preoccupation of South African dramatists with this theme testifies to the quasi-mythical status that Huguenet holds in the struggle to establish love and respect for theater in South Africa. Afrikaans theater was his first priority, but he also played a large role in Anglophone theater. Among Huguenet's great roles that all the playwrights highlight is that of Oedipus.
This link between Huguenet and Fugard is represented in the two roles in Exits and Entrances, Andre and the Playwright. (40) The action of the play moves between the dressing room in the Labia Theatre in Cape Town in 1956 and the dressing room in the Port Elizabeth opera house in 1961. It is framed by two scenes in which the young playwright in his Port Elizabeth apartment on 1 June 1961 addresses the audience directly. The date is significant: it is the date on which the Union of South Africa ceased to exist and the country became a republic, which was forced to leave the Commonwealth because of the apartheid policy of the National Party which had been in power since 1948. That is one of several pairs of exits and entrances which give the play its title. Another pair is in the personal life of the young Fugard, whose father is dying but whose baby daughter was born three weeks earlier. The most prominent, however, is the end of the career of the charismatic Andre Huguenet, who for thirty years had been the biggest star of the Afrikaans theater, and the start of the career of the young Fugard who in the 1956 scene talks about his aspirations as a dramatist and in 1961 had completed one of his early successes, The Blood Knot.
The Cape Town scene is set during the production of the English version of Oedipus which celebrated Andre's thirty years in the theater. (41) Part of the dialogue of Exits and Entrances can be read as a review of Huguenet's interpretation of Oedipus and also as homage of the young newcomer to the old master:
Andre, as Oedipus, standing at the top of the steps in front of the doors of his Theban palace, became very still, and we ordinary mortals held our breath and waited. In those terribly silent seconds it seemed as if the whole world was waiting, and at the point when you thought you could no longer endure it and would have to scream, at that precise moment, not a second too soon or too late, Andre opened his mouth and out of it came the most awful cry that any member of the audience had ever heard. It sounded as if he had somehow reached deep down into himself and was dragging his genitals up through his body and throat and hanging them out of his mouth for all of us to spit on and curse. And that was not just one memorable performance! Oh no. Andre knew it was the moment of the play, so he hit the mark with uncanny accuracy virtually every night. I know what I am talking about because I was there on stage with him. (8)
By 1961 the political and cultural milieu was beginning to change. Fugard depicts an actor whose spirit has been broken by many years of struggling to make ends meet and even playing to almost empty houses. This scene is set at a second meeting, in Port Elizabeth where--in the play as in real life--the young Fugard is living and Huguenet performing in another play. The contrast between the ideals of the young playwright and the disillusioned old actor extend into the political sphere. Fugard's Andre had dreamt that through his acting he could liberate Afrikaners from the narrow beliefs inculcated by the establishment:
Believe it or not, but vervloekte (accursed) Andr4 thought that theatre could liberate our people--break the shackles that the verkrampte (ultra-conservative) dominees (ministers of the Dutch Reformed Church) and politicians were forging around our minds and souls. (20)
Fugard's dialogue sketches an Andre Huguenet disappointed in his quest. Fugard even imagines him identifying himself with Oedipus as an accursed man because of his status as outsider--as an actor and a gay man--in the country of his birth. (42) The poignancy of the old actor's disenchantment with the rewards of the theater is shown up by the ideals of the young playwright who has a much wider vision of what he hopes to achieve:
You know Andre, that phrase you used ... "our people".... If you don't mind me saying so, that is exactly what is wrong with our theatre--with the whole damned country for that matter. Because as far as I am concerned the people of the slums are also "my people". I can't pretend they don't exist. They're out there and as much a part of my world as you, or my wife or the unborn child she is carrying, or my dying father. I rub shoulders with them every day of my life.... They're not invisible you know. In some ways their world is even more real for me than the white one I live in. (27)
Andre's reaction betrays his disillusionment not only with the theater but with South African politics as well:
Well you'll be wasting your time, dear boy, as much as I wasted mine. If you are going to write, take my advice and learn how to write good drawing room farces. That way you will make a lot of money and live happily ever afterwards. That is what I should have done. Wake up the Afrikaner and make him think? Did I really say that? What a fool! Look at them. It's worse now than when I started out thirty-five years ago. The guardians of the yolk have locked up this country and thrown away the key. If you think they are going to allow any changes, you've got another guess coming. (28)
Fugard himself had deliberately chosen a different approach to theater in South Africa. He grew up fluently bilingual in English and Afrikaans, the son of a father of Anglo-Irish descent and an Afrikaans mother. (43) His plays are written in colloquial South African English, interspersed with Afrikaans words and words from the lexicon of African languages. In Exits and Entrances (20) Andr4 calls the playwright "English" This evokes the immediate reaction: "I'm a South African." Fugard thus depicts a divergence in conceptions of what it means to be a South African. While Andre's narrow self-definition is that of a white Afrikaner and he seems to expect that the playwright's is that of a white English South African, Fugard's definition is far wider and includes all races.
Andre and the playwright also have radically opposed conceptions of the theater. Andre sees it as an ideal: "People go to the theatre to be elevated above ... squalor and filth, not to have it thrown in their faces" (26). For Fugard however, as his work amply illustrates, theater can make use of the sordid details of real life to achieve higher goals, not only can theater allow a glimpse of humanity, but it can strive to change the conditions of ordinary human beings.
Marisa Keuris's analysis of the play as a cultural and political discussion of Afrikaner identity is certainly part of the focus, but Fugard casts the net wider: by setting the framing scenes on the date in 1961 when Huguenet had just died, as the Playwright reads out to the audience, a signal is given that the previous generation is passing away and that the time of the more inclusive vision of the new generation and its Playwright will come.44 The retrospective view at the time when Exits and Entrances was first performed, ten years after the demise of the National Party government and the establishment of full democracy in South Africa, allows audiences to realize that not only was Fugard successful in working for and with his fuller conception of the South African people, but that even Huguenet's pessimistic view that the Afrikaners would never change was false.
Fugard's representation, through the character of Andre, of the aspirations and achievements of Afrikaans theater, succeeds in evoking the ambitions, the struggle, the moments of success, and the eventual eclipse of Afrikaner ambitions in this terrain. Afrikaans theater has however been subsumed into the larger world of South African theater, which Fugard's Exits and Entrances shows, is in keeping with the inclusivity of modern South Africa. It is significant that the title of Fugard's play places Entrances as the last word. It indicates that a particular kind of Afrikaans theater may have come to an end, but that something greater is entering the stage.
The earlier productions of Sophocles' Oedipus therefore not only served an academic and establishment interest but also inspired further creative work. It is from the encounter with the greatest Afrikaans exponent of the role of Oedipus that Fugard drew his inspiration for Exits and Entrances, which celebrates the confidence and pride in the South African theater of the twenty-first century. This is evidence of the long way that not only Afrikaners but all South Africans have come since the first attempts at creating a culture independent of the colonial powers.
University of Nottingham
(1) For convenience I shall refer to the play as Oedipus in this article, unless I use the full title of the translated version.
(2) See Fiona Macintosh, Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1-35, for a discussion of the performance of Oedipus plays in ancient Athens and the role that Aristotle's judgment had on the subsequent esteem in which Sophocles' tragedy was held.
(3) See Betine Van Zyl Smit, "]he Reception of Greek Tragedy in the 'Old' and 'New' South Africa," Akroterion 48 (2003): 3-20; Kevin J. Wetmore, The Athenian Sun in an African Sky (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002), 143-68 and 194-202; Betine Van Zyl Smit, "Orestes and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," Classical Receptions Journal 2, no. 1 (2010): 114-35.
(4) J. C. Steyn, Tuiste in eie taal: Die behoud en bestaan van Afrikaans (Cape Town: Tafelberg, 1980), 211-17 (213).
(5) P. du P. Grobler, "Hamlet in Afrikaans," Standpunte 2, no. 1 (1947): 50-59.
(6) See Loren Kruger, "New Africans, Neocolonial Theatre and an 'African National Dramatic Movement;" South African Theatre Journal 9, no. 1 (1995): 29-51.
(7) Although an Afrikaans version of Euripides' Medea had been produced as early as 1907 in Potchefstroom, and in Pretoria the next year, nothing seems to be known about the translator or the script. For more details see L. W. B. Binge, Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse Toneelkuns (1832 tot 1950) (Pretoria: Van Schaik, 1969), 37-39, and for a discussion of the performances see Betine Van Zyl Smit, "Medea in Afrikaans," in Alma Parens Originalis? ed. John Hilton and Anne Gosling (Bern: Peter Lang, 2007), 73-91. This pioneering staging of Greek tragedy was put on by the Afrikaans-Hollandse Toneelvereniging (Afrikaans-Dutch Theatre Society), who were dedicated to encouraging Afrikaans plays and thus strengthening and supporting the language and education of the yolk (nation) and the struggle for the recognition of the language rights of Afrikaans speakers.
(8) L. J. du Plessis, trans., Koning Oidipus. Treurspel van Sophokles (Pretoria: Van Schaik, 1928).
(9) For details of du Plessis's life and career see P. J. J. S. Potgieter, "Du Plessis, Lodewicus (Wicus) Johannes," in vol. 4 of Dictionary of South African Biography, ed. C. J. Beyers (Durban: Butterworths, 1981), 137-39.
(10) Du Plessis, Koning Oidipus, 6, indicates that he followed Jebb's text of 1914.
(11) Frans Smuts, "Die Klassieke in Suid-Afrika, 1930-1976," Akroterion 21, no. 4 (1976): 1121, discusses the teaching of Greek and Latin at schools and universities in South Africa.
(12) Du Plessis, Koning Oidipus, 5 of Voorwoord, the translator's preface in the published edition.
(13) Ibid., 7-38.
(14) P. J. Conradie, "Uit die oorspronklike Grieks in Afrikaans vertaal," Akroterion 21, no. 4 (1976): 22-29, discusses this translation and other Afrikaans versions of Greek literary works.
(15) Potgieter "Du Plessis, Lodewicus (Wicus) Johannes," 138.
(16) Loren Kruger, ed., Lights and Shadows: The Autobiography of Leontine Sagan (Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press, 1996), 223. Sagan thought that a national theater in South Africa "would be a catalyst for a new cultural alliance between the English and the Afrikaans people. It would knit the two races together, not only the artists, but also the audiences throughout the land. This social unity was to be the sine qua non of the National theatre" (223).
(17) Hermien Dommisse, Die Dramaturg en sy gemeenskap (Johannesburg: Perskor, 1976), 249.
(18) Binge, Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse Toneelkuns, 217, has a list of other plays and cultural events of the year.
(19) Theo Wassenaar, trans., Koning Oidipus: 'n drama van Sophokles, rev. ed. (Johannesburg: Perskor, 1974).
(20) For a discussion of Wassenaar's method of "interpreting" Greek tragedies into Afrikaans see P. J. Conradie, "Dr. Theo Wassenaar en die Klassieke," Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe 25, no. 3 (1985): 162-70, specifically 165-66.
(21) Conradie, "Uit die oorspronklike Grieks in Afrikaans vertaal," 24.
(22) H. A. Mulder, "Koning Oidipus in Afrikaans," in Twee Werelde: Opstelle oor Afrikaanse en Nederlandse Letterkunde (Pretoria: Van Schaik, 1942), 89-92 (90).
(23) Cited by Conradie, "Dr. Theo Wassenaar en die Klassieke," 170 (translation mine).
(24) H. A. Mulder, "Koning Oidipus in Afrikaans," 92 (translation mine).
(25) Binge, Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse Toneelkuns, 341.
(26) J. J. Horne, "Anna Neethling-Pohl se Bydrae tot die Afrikaanse Verhoogkuns" (MA diss., University of Pretoria, 1970), 136.
(27) Binge, Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse Toneelkuns, 359.
(28) For details of the press coverage see Horne, "Anna Neethling-Pohl se Bydrae tot die Afrikaanse Verhoogkuns," 137-38.
(29) P. J. Conradie, "Die resepsie van enkele Afrikaanse opvoerings van Griekse tragedies," Akroterion 44 (1999): 14-23.
(30) Translation mine.
(31) Cited by Binge, Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse Toneelkuns, 216-17.
(32) Cited by Binge, Ontwikkeling van die Afrikaanse Toneelkuns, 217 (translation mine). Andre Huguenet was the stage name adopted by Gerhardus Petrus Borstlap.
(33) The 1955 production is discussed below.
(34) Kruger, Lights and Shadows, xxxv.
(35) Horne, "Anna Neethling-Pohl se Bydrae tot die Afrikaanse Verhoogkuns," 177.
(36) Ibid., 177-78.
(37) Huguenet was able to perform in English and Dutch as well as Afrikaans. Danie Botha, Voetligte en applous! Die beginjare van die Afrikaanse beroepstoneel (Pretoria: Protea, 2006).
(38) Athol Fugard, Exits and Entrances (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2005).
(39) Pieter Fourie, Elke Duim 'n Koning [Every Inch a King] (Pretoria: Protea, 2002), Jill Fletcher Andre Huguenet--Meneer! (unpublished playscript in the archive of Artscape Theatre, Cape Town).
(40) As Marianne McDonald points out in "The Return of the Myth: Athol Fugard and the Classics," Akroterion 51 (2006): 1-19 (14), he is never referred to by the name Athol Fugard, but it is clear that he is the playwright. Fugard himself has indicated that he based the play on his "relationship as a member of an acting company and as a dresser to a wonderful old Afrikaans actor called Andre Huguenet" (in an interview with Philip Fisher in the British Theatre Guide, http://www.britishtheatreguide.info/otheresources/interviews/AtholFugard.htm [accessed 10 September 2009]).
(41) Nothing is said about why he chose an English version, but it would probably have been aimed at appealing to a wider audience. Unfortunately, Huguenet's autobiography, Applous: Die Kronieke van 'n Toneelspeler (Cape Town: HAUM, 1950), was published before he played Oedipus.
(42) Fugard makes this an integral part of Huguenet's outsider persona, as "Dopper Moffie" (Calvinist Homosexual) and actor. McDonald's translation of Dopper Moffie as "village queer" ("The Return of the Myth," 15) is incorrect and ignores the wider cultural and political implications of the phrase. Other authors, e.g., Binge, are more cautious in their approach. Fugard's implication in the play that Huguenet committed suicide is not the accepted consensus: according to most accounts he died of a heart attack in his sleep at his sister's house.
(43) Stephen Gray, File on Fugard (London: Methuen, 1991), 7.
(44) Marisa Keuris, "Athol Fugard's Exits and Entrances: The Playwright, the Actor and the Poet," Journal of Literary Studies 24, no. 2 (2008): 71-84.
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|Title Annotation:||L.J. du Plessis, Theo Wassenaar, Athol Fugard and Andre Huguenet on the classical play of 'Sophocles: Oedipus Tyrannus'|
|Author:||Van Zyl Smit, Betine|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2010|
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