‘When Swallows Cry’ at The Market Theatre


Hot off the heels of yet another smash hit, Pay Back the Curry, playwright Mike van Graan’s new play When Swallows Cry will make its South African premiere at the Market Theatre in January 2017.  This latest work delves into the uncomfortable but topical issue of ‘foreigners’ and the global migration crisis.

This new script follows Mike van Graan’s engagement with a unique international collaborative project under the auspices of Norway’s Ibsen International Theatre Company. Van Graan was one of eight playwrights chosen from around the world to meet over a period of nine months in three Chinese cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou — to develop scripts about migration with teams of Chinese actors and dramaturges from Norway, Italy and Slovenia.

The Ibsen International Foundation will stage all eight works at the prestigious Shanghai International Theatre Festival in October 2017. When Swallows Cry is the first of the eight works to be staged.

The work is a trilogy of plays that explores the inequities and layered complexities of contemporary global mobility, particularly from African perspectives.  Once forced to “migrate” as slaves, Africans are now among the world’s least attractive migrants for the wealthy economies of the world, although many of them were built on African labour and mineral resources.

“People crossing national boundaries is a massive political issue posing numerous challenges. Whether it’s migrants searching for a better quality of life or refugees fleeing conflicts, the repercussions are felt in the rise and fall of politicians, the building of physical fences and metaphorical walls, and new policies to deal with real or imagined loss,” Van Graan says.

“Amidst all this are human beings with unique stories full of anxieties and hopes – some of whom will be embraced, while many will be feared as “the other”.  Globalised economic interdependence and the paradox of increasing polarisation around nationalistic interests is leaving the migrants and refugees trapped between these fault lines,” he adds

Van Graan’s play will inspire new conversations around immigration and migration, and about how the host countries can work with other countries.

Three actors each play different characters in three stories set on three continents.  While the stories are of individuals, the themes are universal.

Supported by a grant from the Department of Arts & Culture’s Incubator Project, the production will be directed by first-time director Lesedi Job, who has just returned from a Canadian directing residency that prepared her to take on this project to launch her career. She is being mentored by visionary theatre veteran Megan Willson, who has a long list of accolades. Megan provides a sounding board as a mentor and will help Lesedi to navigate this new exciting work. Lesedi performed in the Market Theatre’s ‘Black history month’ production A Raisin in the Sun.

Mpho Osei Tutu, Christiaan Schoombie and Market Theatre Laboratory alumni Warren Masemola are cast in this Incubator Project production. The show will also give five incubatees the opportunity to be mentored by professional counterparts in lighting design, costume design, set design, sound design and stage management.

The Department of Arts and Culture is supporting a series of incubation programmes designed to boost the level of fresh young talent in the theatre industry and see more local content brought to the stage.

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