Tale of a woman of substance

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to weare crofford

The one-woman play An Audience with Miss Hobhouse is a new one-act play from a new playwright, Cape Town journalist Tony Jackman. Theresa Smith spoke to director Chris Weare.

Chris Weare has been looking for an excuse to work with actress Lynita Crofford for a while, so he was quite happy to get stuck into a new play by Tony Jackman.

Crofford tackles multiple roles, from Cornish-born aristocrat Hobhouse to Tant Alie, a Boer prisoner of war based on a real woman whose diary Hobhouse translated.

Of course, that wasn’t quite the whole reason, having read the script for An Audience with Emily Hobhouse, Weare relished the chance to turn the historic document into a theatrical work.

“I’m not doing it just because Lynita wanted to work with me. My first allegiance is to the story and to the audience,” said Weare.

The UCT head of drama was interested in the style of Jackman’s script: “It’s a history document in a way, so it is a challenge to release it from that. The process is a delicate one. It was nice to have that opportunity to ask the writer what it is about. The resilience of women? Emancipation? Human rights?

“It was a well-written script so there was [just] some shaping in terms of the theatricality,” he said.

An Audience with Miss Hobhouse looks at the British woman’s world and how she devoted a good part of her adult life to bringing the plight of Boer women and children to the attention of her fellow countrymen.

Weare pointed out that while it is easy enough to look up information about Emily Hobhouse on the internet, the more elusive information they had to interrogate was the characteristics of the woman which would drive the story.

They had to be selective about what to show, given that there were the time constraints of working on a short play, so what he did was look for the character’s passion.

“There are moments when she’s in the camps, standing up to the men and it’s how she did it in that particular world… here’s a character with resilience, dignity and commitment and how she did it is what draws you into the story.

“In that simplicity, there’s a richness to the story. That theme of injustice, we can safely assume that people can be concerned with that and that is the entry into the story,” explained Weare.

The play debuted at the Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival last month and the positive response from the audience told writer and director they were on the right track.

They’ve got a week-long slot at the Intimate Theatre because the run of Murderer had to finish a week early to allow Carel Nel to take up a role in Amy Jephta’s Other People’s Lives at Artscape.

• An Audience with Miss Hobhouse plays at the Intimate Theatre, Hiddingh Campus, from tonight until Sunday at 8pm, with a 2pm matinee on Sunday. R80 or R65 for pensioners. Use www.webticket.co.za to book.

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