‘Pieces of Me’: Bo Petersen returns to the Cape Town stage to ‘dissect’ family secrets

Bo Petersen in Pieces of Me. Picture: Ingrid Fadnes

Bo Petersen in Pieces of Me. Picture: Ingrid Fadnes

Published Jul 7, 2024


South African actress Bo Petersen returns to the Cape Town stage for her first full run in seven years at The Baxter Theatre. She performs her internationally acclaimed autobiographical work Pieces of Me from July 10 to 27.

The production is a profoundly moving personal story of the unspoken histories that many people carry within them. An exploration of family secrets, with resonances that still echo today. It explores questions about identity: “Who are you, if you can no longer be who you are?”

The iconic Royston Stoffels teams up with his long-time friend and fellow thespian, as the director.

Bo Petersen in Pieces of Me.

Now living in the US, the 69-year-old Petersen was born in Queenstown in the Eastern Cape but has seen various moves since then.

“I spent a few years in Zambia, then most of my childhood in the then Western Transvaal, on gold mines in Orkney and Carletonville.

“I went to UCT, 12 years in Johannesburg, one year on a farm in the Karoo and then back to the Mother City until 2017. I'm from South Africa, I guess!”

Petersen grew up in a white family in apartheid South Africa. When she was 19, she uncovered her father's secret.

He was not white and had married the love of his life, who was white. From the age of 28 he lived as a white man.

When Bo found out about her father's hidden life nearly 40 years ago, her life changed in a profound way. She became the custodian of his secret.

She began writing “pieces” as a way of trying to understand her father, his “passing” and in turn, her “passing”. They were collaborators in their knowledge and silence.

What began as a solo show has now excitingly been expanded, with her cousin, musician Christopher Petersen, joining her on stage.

Petersen said, “With ‘Pieces of Me’, I want to kickstart conversations about identity, history and race among South African young people, and build empathy and understanding of the ongoing impact of apartheid and colonialism, and of the unspoken histories that many people carry within them.”

“I showcased Pieces of Me in its germinal phase at TheatreArts in 2023. Since then it has developed in leaps and bounds into a proper production.

“What the apartheid regime tried with all its inhumane laws to tear apart, we are evidence that it has failed. The painful price, however, that our families have had to pay is unforgivable.”

“We relocated to the USA in 2017. Due to the very expensive and complicated process of getting a work permit in the USA, I was only able to be gainfully employed since September 2023. I have volunteered and directed two plays, Grand Concourse and Lot's Wife.

“I performed at the Tennessee Williams Festival, part of Fred Abrahamse's beautiful Night of the Iguana. I teach conversational English online and volunteer for a domestic violence and Rape Crisis hotline.”

“I recall fondly three productions spanning more than 30 years at The Baxter. They are Cincinnati, Kindertransport and Cissie.

Director Royston Stoffels said of the theatrical reunion: “It was déjà vu. We were colleagues in the former Capab Drama company in the ‘80s and we played together often.

Royston Stoffels. Picture: Supplied

“It didn’t feel like decades between our last meeting. Bo sent me her script which resonated a familiar narrative of family secrets and lies. I felt very privileged that she would ask me to direct her piece with some music. What a joy it has been!"

Tickets to the show can be purchased on Webtickets and range from R165 to R220.