To mark 20 years of democracy in South Africa three of KwaZulu-Natal’s respected institutions – the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Howard College), The Stable Theatre and the Wushwini Arts and Heritage Centre – have collaborated to bring the first musical adaptation of Peter Abrahams’s novel, Mine Boy, to stage.

Mine Boy will be presented in Durban at the Stable Theatre and the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre before touring the rest of the country.

Tonight spoke with Jerry Pooe, who jointly directs the piece with Roel Twijnstra, to find out more about the musical.

The creative duo are on a mission to adapt South African classics for stage after successfully adapting Zakes Mda’s Madonna of Excelsior and Ben Okri’s The Famished Road.

“We’ve selected Mine Boy as part of that African novel adaption programme, which we want to continue with at least for the next five years and see where it takes us,” he explained.

Pooe added that this collaboration is multipronged in it’s intentions: It is relevant to issues our country faced 20 years ago and issues we still face today, it is an good example of social cohesion in a country still bogged by racism, and a good theatre development tool.

“The production is highly relevant today. What we see happening in Marikana is not something that started now. It’s an old issue and this would show people that the struggle between the miners and employers has been going on for a long time.

“It gives that perspective that from as early as 1949 there were white people who were prepared to work hand-in-hand with black people to fight apartheid and the exploitation system. It shows people that social cohesion is not just a token but a reality. It can happen, more so now that we are all free in South Africa,” he explained.

Commenting on the cast Pooe said the cast of 20 comes from Eager Artist performers and university students. Eager Artists, the resident theatre company of Wushwini Arts and Heritage Centre, was founded by Pooe in 1993 when he was still a student of then Natal University.

“We also wanted to give students the opportunity to perform in a professional theatre and have a taste of what it’s like. A few of the cast are ex-university students but we know how difficult it can be in the industry and we wanted to afford them this opportunity as well. So we are hoping that through these kinds of works we will be able to provide opportunitiess for those young newcomers in the industry.”

According to a press release this classic text, written in 1949, is considered the first modern South African novel written by a black author. With themes around apartheid, labour and poverty the show questions what really has changed since 1994.

Pooe thanked KZN Arts and Culture, eThekwini Municipality, UKZN and Santam for making the project possible.

With set and costume design by Twijnstra, Siphiso Majola of the renowned Flatfoot Dance Company will choreograph the show, with design and video projections by Doung Jahangeer, and photographs by Dean Hutton.

Mine Boy’s season at Stable Theatre runs between June 20 and 24. Performances will be at 10am (schools performance) and 7pm (opening public performance) on June 20; 7pm (public) on June 21; 3pm on June (public) 22; June 23 at 10am and 12am (schools performances); with a final schools performance on June 24 at 10am.

• Tickets are R50 per person (public performances) and R35 (schools). Bookings Stable Theatre 031 309 2513, or at the door. Further performances will take place at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre in September and October.