Kraal of Dreams : Gloss 2

Kraal of Dreams

Imagine making the kind of theatre that takes place in small rural towns in South Africa, where theatre and performance are not afforded much value. At the heart of this work is an exploration of what it means to synergise ‘mainstream’ and ‘community’ theatre in rural South African contexts; it is a theatre that seeks to blur these historical, geographic, and theoretical divides.

The kind of theatre I would like to make views ‘community’ theatre not as lesser and inferior, but as vital in its own right. It does not conform to ‘mainstream’ theatre norms and traditions that are typically defined by the spaces and geographic locations in which theatre is performed; it does not necessarily rely on theatre buildings and geographic locations that are more easily accessed by those who have transport and are able to afford the price of a theatre ticket. ‘Community’ theatre is performed in townships in non-formal spaces such as church halls, market places, taxi ranks, and the like. The architecture of the space thus often allows for and encourages active physical audience engagement.

What if we maintain that the power relationships between actors and audience are fluid and interchangeable? What if we posit that ‘mainstream’ theatre primarily emphasizes the role of the individual actor, the playwright and the director, as opposed to ‘community’ theatre’s emphasis on creative collaborators? And we see these as values rather than detriments?

What if we endeavor to realise a model that embraces both under the umbrella of theatre and performance?

Imagine a cross-community professional theatre:

  • Site-specific theatre that involves working with people from different communities within small rural towns.
  • Professional artists work alongside ‘non-proffessional’ community artists (artists who do not necessarily make a living out of performance).
  • Community members are involved in the process as well as in the performance. It is cross-community in that theatre and performance provide a framework for conversations between different communities. These conversations occur during the creation process as well as during the performance.

Concomitant to this, is an interest in investigating what happens when memories contained within physical spaces and structures encounter external memories within particular spaces. For example, when memories of neighbours and the surrounding homes, converge with memories contained in the performed story, when geographical and psycho-emotional landscapes converge or collide.

The kind of theatre I would like to see being made is not about master, single narratives, official memory, or the structured geographies of town, house, and work/economic space. Rather, it engages psycho-emotional landscapes, conversations, personal stories, embodied memories, communities, home and domestic spaces.

This theatre informs the structure of the town; it permeates the geographic memory of the place.

Multiple experiences, memories and stories are exchanged between, and within, different communities.

Through site specific theatre and performance, I imagine embodied memories and personal stories are able to emerge and begin dissolving collective or official memory.


[1] Typically the price of a ticket to a theatre production in a ‘mainstream’ theatre house in South Africa, cost between 50 and 200 Rand, depending on where it fell on the graph that delineated ‘mainstream’ from ‘community’.

[2] In South Africa, township refers to the urban living areas that, during Apartheid, were reserved for non-white South Africans. They were built on the periphery of towns and cities. Townships still exist in South Africa, post-Apartheid.


About the Author

Sara Matchett is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Drama at The University of Cape Town who teaches voice, acting, theatre-making, and applied drama. Her scholarly research investigates the soma as a site for generating images for performance making, with specific focus on breath as catalyst. She has worked with Project Phakama (2000 – 2005), an international collective of artists and educators driven by the desire to make high-quality arts, and Artistic Director of The Mothertongue Project, a women’s arts collective she co-founded in 2000. She directed Rehane Abrahams in What The Water Gave Me (2000) and again in Womb of Fire (2017). Her work concerns the performing female body as a site of disruption where the body itself challenges the borders and boundaries of the body politic.