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Phillippa Yaa de Villiers

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Original Skin at the Baxter

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Original Skin at the Baxter Theatre this Sunday

The Baxter Theatre Centre’s popular South African season in the 2007 Play>Ground series continues this Sunday, November 4, with performance poet Phillippa Yaa de Villiers’ Original Skin, at 5pm in the Baxter Sanlam Studio.

De Villiers teams up with Robert Colman, who is responsible for direction and script development, to tell a story of transracial adoption. Set in the old South Africa, with Group Areas and legalised racism in full swing, it is a tale of mysterious choices, race, deception, love, good intentions and discovery.

When Alex Coetzee returns home to clear out her childhood bedroom, she is visited by ghosts from the past who take her on a journey of discovery. She is a mixed-race child adopted by a white family, and returns to find what’s “left of her to take home.” As she creates the characters of her birth mother and father, she discovers herself – the child of indeterminate ancestry – who was left at a smart orphanage in 1966. Thus begins her journey through the rough terrain of South Africa’s recent social history, through seventies segregation and eighties insurrection to nineties liberation. Alex’s adopted family relationships develop until their devastating climax, forcing her to make a choice that will change her life for ever. The play is a chain of monologues and dialogues delivered in the varied voices of the characters, connected by song and poetry.

“In writing this piece,” says de Villiers, “I wanted to tell a story and entertain the audience, but also wanted to examine how we lived informs who we are today. Is race something that exists outside of us? Do we fit in to a race or does it arise in us? Is there really such a thing as a coconut? Why is there so much debate around how black people define ourselves – or don’t define ourselves?”

Play>Ground is a series of rehearsed play readings which provides a space for actors, directors and audiences to experience the very best of contemporary local and international scripts. Discussions about all the works after the performances are welcomed, stimulating cultural debate and encouraging audiences to develop their critical theatre awareness.

Lewis Nkosi’s The Black Psychiatrist concludes this 2007 season of Play>Ground on Sunday, November 11, also at 5pm. Directed by Paul Savage and performed by Erica Wessels and David Johnson, it is a gripping, sexy and provocative piece of theatre.

With one performance only, seating is limited. Tickets are R30 and booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000 or the Baxter Theatre Centre on 021 680 3989.