Added: December 3, 2016 – Last updated: December 3, 2016


Author: Candice Lynn Williams

Title: Staging the Criminalised Society

Subtitle: Contemporary South African Theatre's Response to the Social Insecurity Caused by Violent Crime in South Africa over the Past Decade (2002 - 2012)

Thesis: M.A. Thesis, Stellenbosch University

Advisor: Samantha Prigge-Pienaar

Year: March 2016

Pages: viii + 144pp.

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 21st Century | African History: South African History | Representations: Literary Texts / 21st-Century Literature


Link: SUNScholar Research Repository: Digital Archive of the Stellenbosch University (Free Access)



»The potential to fall victim to violent crime is an ever-present threat in contemporary South African society that many South Africans have resigned themselves to. It is also one of the few aspects of South African society that is common to all races, genders, cultures, locations, and socio-economic backgrounds. It is a popular topic of public debate and violent crime regularly features in all forms of news media. However, this prevalence is not mirrored in the original theatre productions that have been created since the crime wave began in the early 1990s.
The aim of this study is to investigate and find ways to categorise the South African plays that have been created in response to the crime problem. It will highlight patterns in this body of work that could be used by theatre-makers and scholars to understand this subject matter, how it is being received by South African audiences and how theatre-makers have approached the creative process of generating work responding to this theme thus far.
This research study primarily makes use of empirical information collected from a combination of watching the selected plays, reading their scripts and reading reviews of these productions. This study also makes use of information obtained from various publications in the fields of criminology, psychology and sociology, as well as information gathered from newspaper articles and the statistics released by agencies such as the Institute for Security Studies and Stats SA. In order to discuss how portrayals of violent crimes are choreographed and how these portrayals affect viewers/ consumers.
Through an analysis of the data on the South African crime wave that emerges from these various sources, a picture begins to emerge of a generally misunderstood phenomenon that is unique to South African society; crime rates are undoubtedly high, but the ‘crime wave’, appears to have more to do with perceptions than with rising incidences of violent crime.
This is reflected in the theatrical engagement with the crime wave thus far; it is as diverse as are the perceptions of the prevalence of violent crime in South Africa.« (Source: Thesis)


  Declaration (p. ii)
  Abstract (p. iii)
  Opsomming (p. iv)
  Table of figures (p. viii)
  Chapter One: Introduction (p. 1)
  1.1 Preliminary study and rationale (p. 1)
  1.2 Literature review (p. 7)
    1.2.1 Armed Response: Plays from South Africa (p. 7)
    1.2.2 Violence Performed: Local Roots and Global Routes of Conflict (p. 9)
    1.2.3 Theatre & Violence (p. 10)
    1.2.4 Facing the Stranger in the Mirror: Staged complicities in recent South African performances (p. 11)
    1.2.5 South African Theatre Beyond 2000: Theatricalising the Unspeakable (p. 12)
    1.2.6 Theatre, Crime, and the Edgy City in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg (p. 13)
    1.2.7 “It is Not Crime in the Way You See It” - Crime Discourses and Outlaw Culture in Yizo Yizo (p. 14)
  1.3 Hypothesis (p. 14)
  1.4 Problem statement (p. 15)
  1.5 Research questions (p. 16)
  1.6 Research aims (p. 16)
  1.7 Research design and methods (p. 17)
    1.7.1 Investigating the crime wave (p. 17)
    1.7.2 Selecting and mapping the plays (p. 19)
    1.7.3 Categorising the eleven selected plays (p. 22)
    1.7.4 Identifying themes in the selected plays (p. 23)
  1.8 Chapter outline (p. 26)
  Chapter Two (p. 28)
  2.1 What is the crime wave? (p. 28)
  2.2 Who does the crime wave affect and how? (p. 30)
    2.2.1 The influence of crime statistics on perceptions of the crime wave in South Africa (p. 32)
    2.2.2 The influence of the media on perceptions of the crime wave (p. 33)
    2.2.3 South African crime statistics and how they are recorded (p. 37)
    2.2.4 Perceptions of an increase in the brutality of interpersonal crimes (p. 41)
    2.2.5 The post-apartheid transformation of the criminal justice system (p. 44)
    2.2.6 International perceptions of the South African crime wave and international crime statistics (p. 48)
  2.3 Global patterns of violence and trauma (p. 49)
    2.3.1 September 11 and terrorism (p. 49)
    2.3.2 Large-scale conflict, trauma and displacement (p. 52)
    2.3.3 Cruelty and brutality in the global discourse on contemporary violence (p. 54)
    2.3.4 Commonalities associated with violence (p. 54)
    2.3.5 Human rights to freedom and safety (p. 56)
  2.4 The effects of living in a state of fear of violent crime (p. 58)
    2.4.1 Emotional responses and potential behaviour modifications (p. 62)
  2.5 Conclusion: a note on perceptions (p. 64)
  Chapter Three (p. 65)
  3.1 Introduction to South African theatre (p. 65)
    3.1.1 A brief history of South African theatre (p. 65) Post-anti-apartheid theatre (1994 – 2004) (p. 66) Post-apartheid theatre (2004 – 2014) (p. 67)
  3.2 Unique features of South African theatre (p. 68)
    3.2.1 ‘Theatre-makers’ (p. 68)
    3.2.2 Reviewers and bloggers (p. 69)
    3.2.3 The three theatre ‘arenas’: mainstream/commercial, independent/festival and community theatre (p. 70)
    3.2.4 Performance spaces: established theatres vs festivals (p. 73)
    3.2.5 The limitations of non-English-language theatre (p. 74)
  3.3 Representation, resources, access and agendas (p. 76)
    3.3.1 Representations – stereotypes (p. 76)
    3.3.2 Representations – myths/untrue facts (p. 77)
    3.3.3 Representations – the potential traumatic effect on audiences and performers (p. 78)
  Chapter Four (p. 80)
  4.1 Characterising the various methods for staging the criminalised society (p. 80)
  4.2 Introduction to the plays in chronological order (p. 83)
    4.2.1 Dinner Talk – Mike Van Graan (p. 84)
    4.2.2 Green Man Flashing – Mike Van Graan (p. 84)
    4.2.3 Tshepang – Lara Foot Newton (p. 86)
    4.2.4 Some Mother’s Sons – Mike Van Graan (p. 87)
    4.2.5 Relativity: Township Stories – Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom and Presley Chweneyagae (p. 88)
    4.2.6 Armed Response – David Peimer and Martina Griller (p. 91)
    4.2.7 Reach – Lara Foot Newton (p. 92)
    4.2.8 Brothers in Blood – Mike Van Graan (p. 93)
    4.2.9 Other People’s Lives – Amy Jeptha (p. 94)
    4.2.10 Bullets over Bishop Lavis – Christo Davids and Jody Abrahams (p. 96)
    4.2.11 The Three Little Pigs – Rob Van Vuuren, James Cairns, Albert Pretorius and Tara Notcutt (p. 97)
    4.2.12 iSystem – Anele Rusi (p. 99)
  4.3 Responses or the tiers of experience (p. 100)
    4.3.1 Theatrical engagement with the initial response to crime (p. 106)
    4.3.2 Theatrical engagement with the responding reactions to crime (p. 108)
    4.3.3. Theatrical engagement with the reacting response to crime (p. 116)
  4.4 Emotional and behavioural responses associated with fear of crime (p. 117)
    4.4.1 Fear - paranoia (p. 120)
    4.4.2 Fear - migration (p. 121)
    4.4.3 Insecurity - helplessness (p. 122)
    4.4.4 Insecurity - security (p. 123)
    4.4.5 Frustration - disillusionment (p. 124)
    4.4.6 Frustration - emigration (p. 126)
    4.4.7 Anger – criminality (p. 127)
    4.4.8 Anger - vigilantism (p. 128)
    4.4.9 Anger - bitterness (p. 129)
    4.4.10 Hope -stick it out (p. 131)
    4.5.11 Acceptance (p. 132)
  Chapter Five (p. 134)
  5.1 Summary of research questions and aims (p. 134)
  5.2 Findings (p. 135)
  5.3 Conclusions (p. 137)
  5.4 Recommendations (p. 138)
  Bibliography (p. 139)

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