Find the perfect dress for every occasion...
Tony Jackman’s An Audience with Miss Hobhouse, directed by Christopher Weare and featuring Lynita Crofford as Emily Hob-house, will have a short run from Thursday to Sunday at Joburg’s Foxwood Theatre before it leaves for Aardklop, which runs from September 24 to 28.
The English aristocrat Emily Hobhouse achieved fame in South Africa and infamy in her own country for her actions in endeavouring to bring the plight of the Boer women at the hands of the British during the Boer War to the attention of the British public.
More than this, she attempted to persuade the British establishment, both political and civil, to change the circumstances in which the Boer women and children were treated in concentrations camps, and had a fair degree of success in achieving this.
That’s the background for his play, says Jackman, who is thrilled that this is the first of three plays that has been staged professionally. “I never thought I could get a director of Christopher Weare’s calibre and depth of experience to direct the work of an untested playwright, because even though I had already written three plays, none had yet been produced until he took on this one.”
He was also delighted during rehearsals that the director was finding nuances he hadn’t realised were there: “He has a way of seeing inside the words and phrases to find all sorts of facets of who these people are that I’ve written about, why they’re saying what they’re saying and how it affects them and their story.”
Most of us know the Hobhouse story, but Jackman especially wanted to focus on what was for her a humanitarian mission, not a political one. Her concern was women who were victims of war and oppression, not women who were “the enemy”.
“A parallel today, perhaps, would be UN peacekeepers going to world trouble spots to provide humanitarian aid – people who have a kind of diplomatic status because of the nature of the mission,” says Jackman.
He feels her mission was singularly brave at the time: being a woman, an aristocrat, travelling to the other side of the world to try to help people she neither knew nor understood, with no state support, financial or practical, other than that help which she persuaded Sir Alfred Milner and, later, Lord Kitchener, to (reluctantly) provide once she was already in the Cape Colony.
He also inserts a strong feminist spine to the play. Jackman sees Hobhouse – as he does his other heroine of the same period, Olive Schreiner – as a woman with strong South African connections who was a key role model for women in a day that was much more patriarchal than ours, yet who remains an example in our own time more than a century later.
Like Nicola Hanekom’s Land van Skedels (featured last week and also travelling to Aardklop), An Audience with Miss Hobhouse coincides with the centenary of the Women’s Monument/ Vrouemonument in Bloemfontein this year, of which Hobhouse said, “We claim it as a world monument, of which all the world’s women should be proud; for your dead by their brave simplicity have spoken to universal womanhood; and henceforth they are woven into the stuff of every woman’s life.”
Crofford was nominated for a Fleur du Cap theatre award and the production won a Standard Bank Ovation Award at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in July for “excellence on the fringe”.
• Foxwood Theatre, 13 5th Street, Houghton Estate, from Thursday to Monday. Booking is at 011 486 0935 or email@example.com. Tickets: R140 including programme.