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IT’S Taboo Productions has been on a roll on stage lately, first with The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and now with Dear Mrs Steyn, which is running at Seabrookes Theatre.
The play – compiled by Deon Opperman and Wilma Snyman in 1999 for the commemoration of the Anglo Boer War – stars Alison Cassels and is directed by Thomie Holtzhausen (pictured).
We spoke to Holtzhausen about why It’s Taboo Productions chose to stage this particular work.
“Dear Mrs Steyn ties in extremely well with It’s Taboo’s concept of bringing more edgy theatre to stage,” he said.
“We toured with it in northern KwaZulu-Natal last year, just as a start and to get a feel from people.”
The play is based on letters written by Emily Hobhouse to Rachel Isabella Steyn, the wife of president MT Steyn, during the Anglo Boer War.
“Emily Hobhouse was just an amazing person who came to South Africa to help the Boer women at the time (of the war). And although the play was adapted from her letters, word for word, which she wrote to Mrs Steyn, it’s amazing how applicable they are today.
“The role of women in society, and the way governments abuse power time and again in this empire they build, and they don’t care about us,” Holtzhausen said, adding that he referred to all governments in general.
“In her speech, she says to the Afrikaaners back in 1913, ‘Do not do unto others as we the British did to you.’ And what have the Afrikaaners done? We have done exactly the same.
“(The play) looks at the women’s role in this, and Emily Hobhouse questions that, with a bit of humour. But I think she was quite passionate about how governments operated,” Holtzhausen said.
The play was in no way intended to be an attack on the government of today.
“But we need to speak up. This is a very classy way of speaking up against what is happening in and around us. What are men often doing? I’m not saying all men are bad… looking at the power of women and how women were behind that war to a large extent, saying ‘fight for our freedom’, and how women came in to rescue women at the time.
“I think we are facing a society today where the role of women needs to be emphasised yet again. And so many times we’ve seen women making a difference.
“This is not an anti-government piece, not at all, it’s about power and empires. It’s not a piece that is pro-Afrikaans. It’s pro-human rights… You can actually look at this piece and say but it happened 100 years ago and it’s happening again today… It’s set in that period, but that message is as universal and as applicable today as it was then,” said Holtzhausen.
Cassels plays Hobhouse in the It’s Taboo production.
Holtzhausen said: “We’ve worked together before. She’s a stunning actress.
“She’s of British origin, she’s the right age, she just has everything to portray this role.
“She is extremely versatile, passionate and she just jumps into this production. She is Emily Hobhouse. I was very fortunate to secure her to do this role.”