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Durban Dialogues, Then and Now

Durban Dialogues, Then and Now

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Durban Dialogues, Then and Now

194 pagine
2 ore
Oct 20, 2017


A fine collection of contemporary plays by one of South Africa's leading playwrights.

The plays selected, namely Into the Grey, Shooting and Swing cover topics such as social activism, the death of a friend and discrimination in sport. Described through Singh’s satirical lens, these thought-provoking plays bring us up to date with the challenges of life in post-Apartheid South Africa. They focus particularly on people of Indian origin and their relationships with other South African communities and chart the loss of ideals in the dream of the Rainbow nation.

Into the Grey: A harrowing drama depicting the twenty-nine year association between two Durban activists who battle a variety of challenges as their country stumbles towards a bleak future.

Shooting: A one-man play about the unchanging paradigm in Durban’s small town communities in the early years of democracy as a football prodigy’s dream is brutally shattered.

Swing: A two-hander about the relationship between a mixed-race Durban tennis player and her father/coach as they confront many obstacles in a society which undervalues the girl-child.

With a foreword by director Ralph Lawson and introduction by Pranav Joshipura, Associate Professor of English, Mahila College, Gandhinagar, India.
A follow-up anthology of three hard-hitting plays to Singh’s successful drama anthology Durban Dialogues, Indian Voice (2013) which is now studied internationally.

“Ashwin Singh’s plays, working in a contemporary idiom and style and context, become a place for us to set up house, to inhabit, a place filled with humour, compassion and insight. They categorically signal a disposition not to remain silent, not to remain indifferent, prompting us and nudging us to make choices about how we live in our world.” Dr Betty Govinden, KZN Literary Tourism

“The ability to capture the lives and communities of Durban with both pathos and humour resonates in all Singh’s works. The plays pay tribute to the city’s cultural and aesthetic beauty but they also expose its underbelly of crime, corruption and racial tension.” Estelle Sinkins, Weekend Witness

“As with his To House and Spice ‘n Stuff, Shooting author Ashwin Singh tackles his subjects head-on, using his considerable writing skills to blend important historical and contemporary issues with entertainment.” Caroline Smart, The Mercury


About the author

Ashwin Singh is an attorney, academic, playwright, director and actor. His first anthology of plays, Durban Dialogues, Indian Voice was published in 2013 by Aurora Metro Books. The book is being studied and/or referenced at a variety of universities in South Africa, India, Canada and Europe. Singh has also been published as a playwright in the collective anthologies, New South African Plays (Aurora Metro Books, 2006) and the Catalina Collection (Catalina UnLtd, 2013). He is also a published poet and academic author.

Singh is a three-time national award winner via the PANSA Playreading Festival (the country’s foremost playwriting contest) with his plays To House (2003); Duped (2005); and Reoca Light (2012). He is also a respected stage and radio actor, having performed in a number of dramatic and comic productions.

Singh also played a lead role in award winning UK director James Brown’s short film about child abuse, One Wedding and a Funeral.




Oct 20, 2017

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Durban Dialogues, Then and Now - Ashwin Singh




Durban, largely the township of Chatsworth.

The Players

Set Design

The action of the play occurs in different parts of Chatsworth and the Durban CBD: a youth centre; a university courtyard; a public hospital; and a Chatsworth street. A realistic set design would involve an intricate process and may interfere with the rapid flow of the play as it moves through different eras. An expressionist design is recommended. A painted backdrop of a rainbow with a pot of gold at one end and a melting pot of South African cultures at the other end is suggested. Below the rainbow, a few miniature huts and RDP houses could be constructed with a couple of high-rise buildings placed behind these to illustrate the stark aesthetic and economic contrasts of contemporary South Africa.

The following would also be required: a couple of black boxes for the speakers at the youth centre to use; a street pole at the university courtyard; a desk and swivel armchair; a small table and two chairs; and a street bench. The different spaces could be further populated utilising a variety of design options. This is unnecessary in an expressionist design unless it has significant symbolic value and is left to the discretion of the designer and director.

1. Free-Dome Tomorrow

Lights come up on Logan. He is standing on a box in the space that represents The Dome, a nightclub in Chatsworth which was recently destroyed in a fire. He is addressing a small audience of adolescents and young adults.


Run, my cousin Bivash shouted. And then he shoved me forward and began sprinting. So I ran. And they chased us. The young African men who had come to burn Bivash’s house in Inanda… because they had been manipulated into believing that these Indians had taken their land… when in fact it had been designated for the Brown man by the Apartheid government and they had nowhere else to go. And now these Indians had built pretty white houses on property that was once their African ancestors and should’ve held their pretty white houses. And some of these Indians were thriving now… running successful businesses and exploiting Black labour… a few even drove silver BMWs with tri-star mag wheels.

And then I turned around in terror as they drew nearer to us… and I recognised one of them… it was Sihle… our friend Sihle, with whom Bivash and I had played hours of football every time I stayed over during the summer holidays. He looked so angry. He shouted something menacing in isiZulu. And then just as they were about to tear our flesh with their batons and pangas, my uncle Suresh’s van appeared and we threw ourselves into the back… and escaped. But they burnt Bivash’s house down that day… and many more over the next few days. (Pause) I can see that some of you are getting restless already. Just let me finish the story please… you’ll see why I’m telling it shortly.

Anyway… many of the Indians of Inanda, including my relatives, were forced to move in with family and friends in Duffs Road and other neighbouring Indian districts. And as the terror threatened to spread, these districts began organising themselves… and preparing to take revenge. It didn’t matter which Black man they found loitering in the neighbourhood… All darkies are dangerous now, they said. (Pause) The stories I heard… gardeners, hawkers, factory workers… so many innocent Black men just going about their business in the districts… humiliated and assaulted. And then one day when we were visiting our relatives in Duffs Road, I saw them grab Bongani… the petrol attendant they had known for a decade… he had supplied the invaders with information they said… he was planning more attacks. Chop his head! Hold him and I’ll take it out I couldn’t believe it. It was my father… who had never committed an act of violence in his life… now he was thirsting for blood! And then just as he raised his bush knife, my uncle Suresh flung himself in front of Bongani. My uncle… whose arm they had broken… whose house they had burnt… pleaded for mercy. We can’t sink so low… we’re better than this, he said. This man is innocent. I don’t know who’s guilty… and of what they may be guilty exactly. But we have to find another way to get justice. There’s a bigger struggle… and we are part of that. (Pause) I’ll never forget those words that my uncle spoke. On the 22nd of May 1984. My matric year. (Pause) The violence stopped completely soon after that… from both sides… but relations between the two communities were obviously damaged. This is just like 1949, many people said. We’ll never really be united again. I didn’t believe their words. I believed what my uncle had said. (Pause)

But that was four years ago. And it wasn’t in our town. So why am I telling you about it today? Because something very similar happened here in Chatsworth three weeks ago. Starting with another fire… this time, right here in your favourite hangout – The Dome. And we began running again… after a Black boy we blamed for the fire… but he didn’t cause the fire… we did. (Pause)

I remember running after that mob… who were chasing after Bheki… and the image of my father swinging that bush knife came into my head… and I heard my uncle’s words again. I shouted for the mob to stop… but they wouldn’t listen. It was happening again. (Pause) They beat Bheki senseless when they finally caught him. I couldn’t stop them. And then they went home to their families to resume the role of the ‘good son’. They said they beat him up because he started the fire which destroyed their precious nightclub… but that’s not true. Summaya told me she saw Preggie and his drunken friends start the fire because they didn’t stamp out their cigarettes. She alerted them to the fire but they acted too slowly. They were too pissed. But running after Bheki sobered them up… and they beat him because the girls thought he was much sexier on the dance floor than they were… and because he argued with Preggie when Preggie told him to get out of our place… and worst of all, because he French kissed Preggie’s sister and she liked it.

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