On the cusp of the nation’s 30th year of democracy, The Market Theatre is opening a new play that delves into the labyrinth of personal interests, corruption, and abuse of power that has shaped the perilous world of current South African politics.

The Brothers, Number One and a Weekend Special is the story of the rise of State Capture, starting with the announcement of a new Minister of Finance in late-2015. The play, that tracks a two-year history, is written by astute political analyst, Richard Calland, who has been close to the frontline of South African politics since 1994 and a political columnist at the Mail & Guardian since 2001.

As the drama unfolds, an audience will witness the high-stakes manoeuvres, clandestine dealings, and the manipulation of public sentiment that fuelled further racial division across the nation. Calland weaves a compelling narrative that connects the dots between government, media, and corrupt businessman, laying bare the underbelly of a political landscape marked by noise, complexity, and a dangerous volatility. The bold new play will immerse audiences into a narrative rich with thought-provoking revelations, unravelling the complexities of power.

Theatre luminaries, David Dennis, Michael Richard, and Zane Meas lead the cast alongside Astrid Braaf, Ziaphora Dakile and Melissa Haiden. They are guided by The Market Theatre’s award-winning Artistic Director, Greg Homann, who is celebrated for his cutting-edge direction of new South African work. Under Homann’s adept direction, the exceptional cast brings South Africa’s political landscape to life on stage. The production is designed by Lisa Younger with filmmaker Xolelwa ‘Ollie’ Nhlabatsi bringing a dynamic multi-media element to the production.

Homann says, “The action in the play unfolds like a political thriller, so as much as the play is a bold exploration of contemporary history, it is also a theatrical experience.” He adds, “The Brothers, Number One and a Weekend Special allows an audience to gain deeper insights into the forces that have recently shaped South Africa as we approach our seventh democratic elections.”

This is Richard Calland’s debut as a playwright. Now an Emeritus Associate Professor in Constitutional Law at the University of Cape Town and Adjunct Visiting Professor at WITS, he has dedicated the past three decades to democratic governance and sustainable development, advising governments worldwide on transparency and governance reforms. As a sought-after political analyst, commentator and writer, he has authored books such as “Anatomy of South Africa” (2006) and “The Zuma Years” (2013), articulating South Africa’s political trajectory. He says, “Much of my career has been devoted to the principles of transparency and accountability, and constitutional democracy more generally, so the play is my contribution to keeping the story alive and in helping South Africa and other countries learn the lessons of when democracy is threatened.”

Speaking specifically about the play, Calland adds, “State Capture did great harm. But scandal fatigue in modern-day South Africa means that there is a great danger that society will just move on without digesting the underlying causes of what went wrong and why. This is where art can step in and help – by keeping the narrative alive and by dramatizing the complex web of political and legal strands of the story.” He states, “The play is a fable of our times, but also, poignantly, about the challenges that have confronted the African National Congress (ANC) as it has battled to contain malign forces from within and to keep alive its reputation as a proud liberation movement.”

Calland concludes, “Rebuilding hollowed out state institutions and restoring integrity in public life is proving to be the task of Sisyphus. The Zondo Commission recommends hundreds of remedial actions, but the basic storyline may be lost in the detail.”

The exciting production will run at the Mannie Manim Theatre at The Market Theatre with discounted previews from 20 April 2024, followed by an official opening on the eve of the countries 30th year of democracy. It will then run until 12 May 2024.

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