Adam Small often referred to the amateur theatre group, the Cape Flats Players, that regularly
performed his dramas and revues since 1972 – especially in Western Cape communities.
Although some research has been undertaken previously on black Afrikaans community and
amateur theatre very little is known about such cultural activities generally. This descriptive
paper reports on the relationship between Small and the Cape Flats Players theatre company,
an association that has not yet been researched.
As playwright Small invariably revised his plays after the Players’ first performances
often years before publication. Well-known plays that the group performed include Kanna hy
kô hystoe (Kanna, He is Coming Home), Joanie Galant-hulle (Joanie Galant-them) and Die
Krismis van Map Jacobs (The Christmas of Map Jacobs). They also devised a number of
poetry and music revues which served as supporting acts to these drama performances. The revues were based on Small’s published poetry, with titles such as Kitaar my kruis (Guitar my
Cross, 1976), What about de lô (What about the law, 1980), Oos wes, tuis bes, Distrik Ses
(Home sweet Home, District Six, 1982) and Vyfde Evangelie (Fifth Gospel, 1982).
In this contribution to Afrikaans drama history the role of Dramsoc, the student theatre
company at the University of the Western Cape, the Cape Flats Players’ immediate predecessor,
is discussed with a focus on the first Cape performance of Kanna hy kô hystoe in August-
September 1972, performed at the University of the Western Cape and the Nico Malan Nursing
College Hall in Athlone, Cape Town. Norman Michaels as Kanna and Charlyn Wessels as
Makiet, both undergraduate students, performed the main roles of the play to high acclaim.
For most local reviewers it was the first time that they had seen a performance of Kanna hy
kô hystoe, and they were in the main impressed with this “work of emotion and truth” (W.S.
Kaplan in The Cape Times). Bob Molloy wrote an insightful review for The Argus entitled
“Confrontation with reality” in which he said inter alia:
The odour of truth offends the hypocrite, says the Koran. On that basis this major advance
in indigenous theatre is an assault on the senses – a gut-gripping confrontation with
reality […] Small […] brings out the feel, the pity, and terror of true catharsis […] put
across in the patois of the Cape with an almost poetic economy of word and movement.
[…] All the tragedy of rural-urban drift, the anomie of the city, and the breakdown of
simple beliefs in the face of urban violence is contained in this stark sketch of a family forced off the farm by the death of the bread-winner and into the ghetto of District Six.
The University of Western Cape, as other ethnic universities established under the apartheidera
Extension of University Education Act, Act No 45 of 1959, experienced a period of upheaval
during the 1970s. The student community became more radicalised and many students were
caught up in the Black Consciousness movement, spear-headed by the South African Students
Organisation. Members of Dramsoc were influenced by the political philosophy of the day
and associated with the aims of Black “revolutionary theatre” as formulated by Strini Moodley,
a prominent Black Consciousness proponent:
We had to challenge the existing order, the values, the norms. Black Theatre had to speak
the language of revolt, of liberation, of revolution. As a Theatre of Revolt [it] was an
expression of Black Consciousness…
The paper provides some background to an uprising in 1973 at the University of the Western
Cape when students staged a walk-off which for many changed the trajectories of their lives
forever. Adam Small’s life also changed. He, in solidarity with the students, resigned his position
as a senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy. At the prompting of Small, some of the
students who walked off, formed the Cape Flats Players, envisaged to be a full-time theatre
company. Their first performance was Joanie Galant in December 1973, based on a first draft
of Small’s second published play (Joanie Galant-hulle published in 1978). The paper reports on the reception of this play and subsequent revues as well as the end of the full-time phase
of the Cape Flats Players.
Peter Braaf, one of the original members of Dramsoc, revived the Cape Flats Players as
a part-time amateur theatre group, that continued with the performance of Small’s plays and
revues, especially in the Cape Peninsula and the Afrikaans rural communities of the Cape
Province. The article concludes with a brief overview of the group’s activities and their different
Small het dikwels verwys na die amateurtoneelgeselskap die Cape Flats Players wat
sedert 1972 gereeld sy dramas en revues opgevoer het, veral in die Wes-Kaapse gemeenskappe.
Hierdie artikel lewer verslag van die verhouding tussen Small en die toneelgroep, ’n verbintenis
waaroor nog nie uitgebreid navorsing gepubliseer is nie. In die stuk Afrikaanse toneelgeskiedenis
word aanvanklik die rol van Dramsoc, die studentetoneelgroep van die Universiteit van
Wes-Kaapland, die onmiddellike voorganger van die Cape Flats Players, beskryf met die fokus
op die eerste Kaapse opvoering van Kanna hy kô hystoe in Augustus 1972. Daarna word die
rigtende invloede van onder meer swartbewustheid belig wat die toneelgeselskap gevorm het,
gevolg deur ’n beskrywing van die omstandighede wat aanleiding gegee het tot die bedanking
van Small as universiteitsdosent en regstreeks gelei het tot die ontstaan van die Players. Die
artikel word afgesluit met ’n kort oorsig van die groep se aktiwiteite en hul verskillende gehore.
’n Vroeë weergawe van hierdie artikel is op uitnodiging voorgedra tydens die Adam Small-fees
(24–26 Februarie 2017), gehou op Pniël, naby Stellenbosch.