‘In Slavenhuis 39’ is the brainchild of promising young artist and Masters Student at the University of Stellenbosch, Herschelle Benjamin – winner of a Kunste Onbeperk Teksmark bursary in 2018, and recent winner of the Jakes Gerwel Foundation writing project for “Young Stars”.
The story centres on four brown first year students in Stellenbsoch who share a flat that years before housed slaves. The four have divergent backgrounds: Wilden studies theology; Chester is rugby-obsessed and attended a high profile high school associated with the affluent; Adam is gay and mourns over a white ex; and Nathan has a huge secret that threatens to tear his life apart. As they attempt to navigate their first year on campus, they repeatedly clash with one another, until they ultimately decide to participate in the university’s theatre festival to foster closer bonds amongst each other. With a focus on the future, here, where they are trying to build a new life for themselves, they must reconcile their individual and collective identities with modern-day issues like masculinity, gangs, religion, racism and homosexuality – All of this in the slawehuis (slave house), which serves as a constant reminder of their painful past.
The piece offers insight into four young adults of today, and asks what being brown actually means.
Award winning theatre-maker Philip Rademeyer (‘Klippe Wat Val’, ‘Wild’, ‘The View’, ‘As’) directs and conceptualized the design. The dynamic young cast features Stefan Erasmus (‘Fiela se Kind’; 2017 winner of the KykNET Fiësta for Best Actor), Eldon van der Merwe (‘Ouboet en Wors’), Cantona James (soon to be seen in the KykNET TV show ‘Arendsvlei’) and Stephren Saayman.
‘In Slavenhuis 39’ debuted at the Toyota US Woordfees in Stellenbosch in March, where it won the prize (Woordtrofee) for Most Promising Artists. The play is a co-production between the Toyota US Woordfees and Artscape. It will be performed in the Artscape Arena from September 10 to 14.
* Tickets, priced at R130, can be booked via Computicket, or Artscape dial-a-seat on 021 421 7695.