Neil Coppen

NEWFOUNDLAND, a new play by renowned Durban playwright/actor Neil Coppen, has been invited to be performed as a staged reading at the Royal Court Theatre, London.

The busy theatre practitioner’s production of Animal Farm is also scheduled to stage in Durban later this year.

In a press release Coppen (pictured) said he’d been developing NewFoundLand for the past year under the guidance of The Royal Court international residency programme. He heard last week that the play had been accepted on to the London leg of the programme for a staged reading.

“The residency programme sees us developing contemporary South African stories with mentors assigned to us by the Royal Court theatre. From the 12 writers, six of us are now being sent to London for reading of the work (still in progress). The other writers joining me in London are Simo Majola (also from KZN) Mongiwekaya, Amy Jephta, Omphile Molusi and Napo Masheane… Over the past year I have been mentored by British playwright Leo Butler, whose work has been staged by the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre,” he said, adding that this was the highlight of his writing career so far.

“With NewFoundLand I have been able to develop my ideas and rewrite over a lengthy period and this has enabled me to arrive at the best possible version of my story on the page… The play is about an Afrikaans anaesthetist who works in a hospital in rural KZN, and a dancer and varsity student who has recently received a calling from his ancestors.

“These two men’s worlds collide over an internet hook-up and with their strained meeting we enter into a hallucinatory exploration of sexuality, race and religion in contemporary South Africa.”

Commenting on Animal Farm, Coppen said he adapted, designed and directed the piece from Orwell’s novel. It was commissioned by Nobulali Productions in Joburg and is on a six-month national tour.

“While the show is predominantly for high school pupils, it will have weekend public performances here in Durban. I am most excited by the all-female cast who make for an electric ensemble.

“The cast includes three KZN actresses (now based in JHB) Mpume Mthombeni (Napoleon), Mandisa Nduna (Squealer) and Zesuliwe Hadebe (Clover). Naledi award-winning actress Khutjo Bakunzi-Green (who won best actress for her performance in Gina Shmukler’s The Line) plays Boxer and the remarkable Momo Matsunyane is Snowball. To top the dream team off, Daniel Buckland (recently returned from performing abroad with Cirque du Soleil) has choreographed the piece and Tina le Roux has lit the show,” he said.

Animal Farm is set to stage at the Playhouse Drama in August.

• For more information on Animal Farm and its up-and-coming KZN tour, or to make a booking for the Durban run, contact: Boitumelo Motsoatsoe or Lali Dangazele on 011 057 5088 or 011 057 5089.