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Wrestling with Duiker’s Dreams

K Sello Duiker’s
The Quiet Violence of Dreams
11 – 21 April 2012
Con Cowan Theatre :: UJ Bunting Road Campus

Alby Michaels directs the Johannesburg premiere of K Sello Duiker’s award-winning novel which hits the boards at the UJ Con Cowan Theatre on 11 April 2012.

Michaels joined UJ Arts & Culture in 2004 as Resident Director where he has directed 25 productions to date. He graduated from the University of Pretoria 1998 and made his professional debut that same year in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s “The Little Prince”.  In 2011 he directed “The Crucible” which was nominated for three Naledi Awards including Best Produced Play and Best Director. He is currently shooting “Inkaba” for MNET’s Mzansi Magic (channel 107).

His production of “The Quiet Violence of Dreams” is produced and presented by UJ Arts & Culture and marks the activation of the Con Cowan Theatre as the new home of drama at the University of Johannesburg. According to Michaels, the production is not for the faint-hearted.

“When I first read Ashraf Johaardien’s stage adaptation of Sello’s novel the word “courage” came to mind because I knew it was going to be a necessary part of the process,” he says. True to the novel, the play deals with difficult subject matter. Sexuality, sexual orientation, sex-work and male-on-male sexual violence are explored against the backdrop of Cape Town's cosmopolitan suburbs of Observatory, Mowbray and Sea Point.

Johaardien, the Head of UJ Arts & Culture, started working on the adaptation shortly after Duiker’s death in 2005, partly as a tribute, but also because he believes that if we are to continue spending time and resources adapting literature from or about South Africa for the stage, this is the kind of work that needs to be invested in. “Adapting Sello’s 456-page novel into a 109-page play script was a labour of love, he says. “It took about two years to complete the first draft and, like the novel, my adaptation essentially deals with struggles that are iconic of what Sello dubbed the ‘post-apartheid hybrid generation’. But the play and the book are not the same thing. They could never be. Firstly there is the teensy matter of the 347 pages I had to omit.”

“My first act of courage in the creative process for this production was to cut down Ashraf’s original adaptation – which ran at almost three hours in previous productions – to two hours,” says Michaels. The central character in “The Quiet Violence of Dreams” is Tshepo, a graduate of Rhodes University, who attends college in Cape Town. Beneath his nonchalant and naïve exterior, he is the prisoner of a psychosis which started in childhood, when his mother was brutally raped and killed, an act in which his father was complicit. This childhood trauma, which included his being sodomised, triggers a process that cauterises his sense of manhood and engagement with life. After his stint at Valkenberg, he finds work at a Waterfront restaurant and accommodation in Sea Point. His story is interspersed with that of Mmabatho, a female friend who almost always comes to his rescue. Tshepo becomes a male sex-worker, a vocation which allows him to maintain both body and soul, while offering him a chance to explore his own sexuality at leisure, in a world that accepts his orientation. We meet the characters Shaun, West and others. Meanwhile Tshepo metamorphoses into his alter ego, Angelo. A series of events finally leads to Tshepo’s decision to return to Johannesburg.

“Instead of cutting major scenes, I decided to make the scenes shorter by focusing only on certain aspects of Tshepo’s psychosis. This focus translated into the cutting of only three scenes, the absence of which I do not believe compromise the narrative thread Ashraf has selected for the stage play from the novel,” says Michaels. “Wilhelm Disbergen’s design for the UJ production is sleek, clean set allows audio-visual elements to connect what are essentially fragmented scenes into a seamless whole.”

The UJ Arts & Culture production of the Quiet Violence opens on 11 April 2012 at the Con Cowan Theatre on the Bunting Road Campus of University of Johannesburg. Please note that the performance includes mature subject matter, including violent imagery which may offend sensitive patron. Book at Computicket. For more information go to or call 011 559 4674.