DESPITE having spent only six months living in the area, Herman Charles Bosman wrote extensively about the Groot Marico and its people.
Nicky Rebelo’s latest one-hander, A Teacher in the Bushveld, which will be staged at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from June 18 to July 3 at 7pm, mines Bosman’s works and memories of that time.
It also marks the second time David Butler has taken to the stage as the literary genius. His first outing was in A Touch of Madness, which was first performed in 1999.
“That was a play exploring the city life of Bosman,” says Butler.
“We wanted to undo the mythology that he was some sort of ‘backvelder’. It was a fascinating look into his mind – a biography of his life. He wrote with as much humour and satire and affection about the city as he did about the country.”
After the success of that play, Butler says he approached Rebelo, convinced that there was still more they could do with Bosman’s life.
From there they came up with the concept of A Teacher in the Bushveld, which places Bosman back in the Groot Marico where he worked as a teacher after graduating in 1926. It was premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2009.
“This play is Bosman talking about the people he met and described in his stories.” In fact, the title of the play is taken from one of the collection.
Butler says that this latest one-hander draws on a variety of wonderful characters, all seen from the writer’s perspective. “It’s all Bosman’s words and his genius.”
He adds that what he finds so appealing about the SA writer’s story is their perennial nature.
“He’s a great writer. He’s the wellspring of South African writing. He was one of the first people to write about South Africa, for South Africans.
“The beauty of Bosman is, you read some of his stories, and his observations are still as pertinent today as when he wrote them.”
Butler wants the audience to revel in the language of Bosman’s writings, to be entertained and to laugh a lot. “Because he’s extremely funny.”
One of the joys for him in bringing the classic works to stage has been seeing a contemporary audience get so much from it. The hope is that A Teacher in the Bushveld will enjoy a similar success to A Touch of Madness, which has been staged on and off for over a decade.
“People will come because they like Bosman,” says Butler. “People still enjoy and love him, and his stories can be read and re-read.”
Bosman died at the age of 47. This play is him looking back at his life as a younger man, remembering the people he knew. But despite being so short, Bosman’s life was rich and full of fascinating moments. It’s no surprise, then, that Butler and Rebelo have already started plotting a third play, making the series a trilogy.
There are no hints as yet about what aspect of Bosman’s life the next instalment will cover, but if Butler’s passion for the writer is anything to go by, it is bound to be entertaining and enlightening.
Despite the levity in many of his works, Bosman’s life was by no means always happy. In 1926, while home for the school holidays in Joburg, he impulsively shot and killed his stepbrother.
He was sentenced to death, but his sentence was changed to imprisonment and hard labour. When he was released on parole five years later, he devoted himself to writing.
His works have been translated into five languages, he wrote over 90 short stories, two plays, essays and the three novels – Cold Stone Jug, Jacaranda in the Night and Willemsdorp.
He hopes that Capetonians will take this opportunity to brush up on their Butler.
“I want to get people’s appetites whetted. It’s great writing and good entertainment.”
l Tickets are R100 from Mondays to Thursdays and R120 on Fridays and Saturdays. To book, call Computicket at 0861 915 800.