Angels in South Africa: Exploring Modern Progressive and Queer Realities in South Africa through Theatre is a thesis based on the development of the South African experimental play, Angels in South Africa. The play is a reimagination of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches and Angels in America: Perestroika in a South African setting. The play explores the marginalised narratives of a postcolonial South African landscape and focusses on issues of sexuality, race, gender, physical illness (with specific reference to HIV and AIDS), and mental illness. The objective of the play is to redeem narratives that adhere to these themes – and by redemption, it is meant that one voices these narratives in order to understand their value in present realities.
The landscape is described as postcolonial – a state in which colonial histories still affect present realities on the landscape – post-apartheid and post-reconciliation dystopia. In Angels in South Africa (Vermeulen, 2016), I created a fictional, futuristic post-apocalyptic South African landscape that can best be described as a landfill. The play adheres to Landscape Theatre and Magic Realism. Landscape Theatre is a paradigm in which a play is mapped out as a landscape or, in the case of the research, as a landscape consisting of multiple landscapes. I used Magic Realism in order to create a space in which the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction can be blurred. The play is described as a constellation of images – ideas, thoughts, visual images, writings and events – making meaning in relation to one another. Even the actors are described as thought images – I refer to them as “Performing Denkbilder” and I refer to the constellation through which the play is created as the “Progress-Queer Constellation”.
The theory used consists mainly of notions around Historical Materialism as described in Benjamin’s (1926) Theses on History, and Queer Theory as described in Halberstam’s (2011) connected to past events. The past is defined as an image to be retrieved from the ruins of time, in order to create a better lens of the present. To retrieve this image is to go against notions of linear progression, which is described in the research as Capitalistic Progression. Halberstam (2011:89) defines the notion of being queer as to have, either through circumstance or by design, failed normative capitalistic notions on creating one’s lifestyle. The research marries the notion of being queer with that of being a Historical Materialist. The research also argues that it is necessary to deviate from capitalistic, linear progressive means of structuring one’s lifestyle in order to voice the landscape’s marginalised histories. The notion is to create an environment in which newer realities can be created, instead of repeating past oppression.