Waiting for Godot: Khayelitsha, South Africa

Sean Mathias' successful production of Samuel Beckett's play to be performed in Khayelitsha, South Africa
Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot moves to South Africa
Ian McKellen and Roger Rees in Waiting for Godot. Source.
After a successful run in London's West End, Sean Matthias took a production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot to Australia and New Zealand. Now, the director leads a cast of actors, including Sir Ian McKellen, to South Africa. David Smith, writing from Johannesburg, has the details:
He failed to appear in Paris, London, New Orleans, Sarajevo or San Quentin. So the people of Khayelitsha, one of South Africa's biggest townships, shouldn't be surprised if Godot keeps them waiting too.

But tomorrow , they will at least get Sir Ian McKellen and the hit British production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in a one-off performance at the township's OR Tambo sports centre.

Theatre is normally beyond the reach of most residents of Khayelitsha, on the outskirts of Cape Town, where an estimated half of households struggle to afford one meal a day. But audience members for Godot will only be asked to pay what they can afford, with tickets going on sale three hours before curtain up.


Khayelitsha, a place long notorious for violent crime, will add a new chapter to the diverse history of Godot, famously described as "a play in which nothing happens, twice" and endlessly resonant across time and space. Memorable productions have been staged in a besieged Sarajevo in 1993, California's San Quentin prison and in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.

Susan Sontag, who directed Godot in a besieged Sarajevo in 1993, declared: "Beckett's play, written over 40 years ago, seems written for, and about, Sarajevo".

South Africa itself witnessed an all-black, apartheid-era production at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg in 1976. Benjy Francis, its director and star, told the Observer last year: "Every night, the show received standing ovations. Its impact was monumental: Waiting for Godot provided a powerful metaphor of our struggle which allowed me to get past the censor and speak to my people." [Read the article]

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