HERALDING AN EMERGENT NEW CULTURE?

Play : Looking for Muruga

On 29 August 1990, the department of Drama, University of Durban-Westville, presented the première performance of "Looking for Muruga". It was an unusual and, in many respects, a controversial play. Written by lecturer Kriben Pillay, it recalls a former irreverent waiter at the Asoka Hotel who was well known for his songs, bawdy jokes and cutting comments.

The play revolves around the search of a teacher, played by Sherwin Christopher (left), for a waiter by the name of Muruga. His meeting with Muruga, played by Satchu Annamalai (right), takes him on a theatrically stimulating journey of discovery. The action moves from song to dance and from acrobatics to magic; from Bharata Natyam and mythology to a final dance piece that points to future mixed cultural forms in South Africa. The portrayal by a black African, Dante Mashile (centre) of a figure whom audiences perceived to be the Hindu deity, Lord Muruga, elicited considerable controversy.

Directed by Robin Singh with music by Siva Devar, the play presented an interesting challenge for choreographer Suria Govender, who in the important last dance aimed to "uncover a movement vocabulary that transcends Indian and African dance styles".

Says Professor Dennis Schauffer, head of Drama: " 'Looking for Muruga forms part of an important new phase of South African theatrical development. Characteristic of this is the retention of a distinct 'Indian' character in the ethos, form and structure of the work, whilst moving into the area of Indo African intercultural experience, in a presentational form which derives its articulateness from the Eurocentric tradition. It is therefore a work of considerable significance for our emergent new culture."

(From : The year at UDW 1990)