Born in the RSA: A Review

By Laurie Scarborough

The Baxter Theatre’s latest Barney Simon play, Born in the RSA, has been showing to sold-out audiences, and for good reason.

The Baxter recently showed Black Dog/Inj’emnyama, also by Barney Simon, which was very similar in tone and style to Born in the RSA. The play, originally performed in 1986, deals with Apartheid in South Africa, following seven characters, contrasting how the regime affected the people of South Africa in different ways; a white housewife, a black imprisoned woman, a white police informant, a white revolutionary who is later imprisoned, a black mother of an imprisoned 10-year-old boy, a black man involved with the ANC, and white lawyer helping those wrongly persecuted as much as she can.

The original 1986 cast.
The original 1986 cast.

The play follows these characters in vignettes as their lives develop through Apartheid, flipping between characters as the story grows. The story is an important reminder of the darker days of South Africa and the atrocities that were suffered by so many in our country.

The use of the small stage was very effective, with set design being simple and neat. The sets used the same as the original production with a levelled platform for each character covered in the real newspaper clippings from Apartheid. This was just one of the reminders that while these characters are fictional, they are based on the reality of Apartheid in South Africa.

The cast were all superb and convincing in their roles, each adding a layered and nuanced performance to the show. The cast, individually all strong actors, were excellent as a group, all bringing their talents together to create a special piece of theatre.

The seven talented cast members.
The seven talented cast members.

Our own Francis Chouler and Joanna Evans deserve a mention here. Francis, playing a truly unlikable character, so different to his lovely self, was very effective, while Joanna, playing her young revolutionary role, was full of angst and righteous anger.

This show is definitely not to be missed. The play will be showcased at the Hilton Festival on 19 and 20 September, so if you missed out this time, you can catch the show there. Book online here.

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