Story of a leader in South African theatre

2009-04-28 00:00

Professor Elizabeth Sneddon, founder of the Drama Department at the former University of Natal, is the subject of this “novel”, as it calls itself. Written by a protégé of Sneddon’s, her story (a kind of biography seemingly based on oft-told family reminiscences, imaginative recreation and eventually on personal acquaintance) is evocatively told. The author has the ability to capture the tone and intention of his subject’s personal style in conversation and interaction and this book will be of interest to many people whose lives and careers have been influenced by the charismatic Sneddon. It is, however, a very personal view from a very particular perspective, a memoir, and also a homage to someone who was a very important influence in the author’s life. It is this very subjectivity which limits its appeal. Sneddon, along with Professor Rosalie van der Gucht, of the University of Cape Town, were leading figures in the development of drama and theatre in South Africa. Their contribution warrants a detailed examination in terms of their influence on the academic development of the subject, its application as a methodology for education and development, as well as the professional development of theatre and theatre artists in South Africa. Admittedly this is not the writer’s intention but the work is affected by a very personal choice of what to include, leaving what feel like sizeable gaps in the development of Sneddon’s life and career. It is also marred by a proselytising and sentimental approach to the subject matter. The book is self-published and as such suffers from the lack of an objective editorial eye evident in the uneven structure of the book, as well as in the many typographical errors, and in the idiosyncratic layout.

Hazel Barnes

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