Boesman & Lena at the Baxter, and thoughts on Architecture

I just watched an incredible performance (and contemporary interpretation) of one of Athol Fugard’s standout plays, Boesman and Lena. An absurdist piece written during Apartheid, the original play was one of my favourites when I studied it in Dramatic Arts at school. What added to the excitement of the evening was getting to experience such a phenomenal play in a venue equally remarkable – the Baxter Theatre Complex (a building we studied in Drama as well).

The addition of music augmented a theatrical performance by three very talented actors. The lighting cues were clever, and really accentuated depth to the entire feel of the play. Grasping the essence of the titular characters is indeed a challenge, and I truly think they handled it with aplomb.

Both comedic, and incredibly thought-provoking, the play left me compelled to reconsider it with the new knowledge and understanding I’m encountering through my studies of architecture and the urban context. Fugard’s play deals with, amongst a plethora of other issues, that of forced removals. It was then a lucky co-incidence that I watched this play at the end of a week when we studied District Six in our History of Architecture class. District Six was itself a stage for forced relocation during the Apartheid era in South Africa, and I couldn’t help but draw parallels between what I was watching unfold on-stage, and the theory I’ve been reading during our coursework in architecture.

Contemplating a piece of dramatic art with the mindset of someone empathetic to the built environment is a curious experience, but I find it adding enormous depth to an already powerful form of expression. I left the theatre tonight feeling strongly that as architects, urban designers, engineers – people who care deeply about the condition of humanity in the urban space – we need to constantly look beyond the journals and blogs that propagate our discourses; we need to begin to make connections, intertextually, between various arts and sciences. The solution to the challenges humanity faces in this age lie like fragmented pieces of a chessboard, and it’s up to us to find those pieces and link them together.


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