Greig Coetzee’s collected plays

2009-09-23 00:00

AMONG the events at last weekend’s The Witness Hilton Arts Festival was the launch of a new book, with strong local connections.

It is Johnny Boskak is Feeling ­Funny and Other Plays by Greig ­Coetzee, compiled and introduced by former head of the drama department on the local university campus Professor Hazel Barnes, and published by the University of KwaZulu Natal Press.

Barnes spoke at a talk preceding the launch — and started by showing a photograph of a very young, curly-haired, Coetzee as a first-year ­student among the cast of a production of the musical Salad Days. However, as she went on to explain, it has been an upward trajectory thereafter for Coetzee, both as a writer and performer.

The volume contains Johnny Boskak ; White Men with Weapons which draws on Coetzee’s experiences as a conscript in the old South African Defence Force, where he ­refused to carry a weapon; Seeing Red with its roots in his university days in the eighties; Coetzee’s own favourite, The Blue Period of Milton van der Spuy; Breasts – a Play about Men; Look Out, which was developed during Coetzee’s writer’s residency at UKZN; and Happy Natives.

Although Coetzee says he sees himself as a writer rather than a performer, he has acted in his own work, particularly in White Men, Johnny Boskak and Milton, all over South ­Africa and abroad. He described at the launch how performing has helped his writing. “Performing keeps you honest,” he said, talking about how it forces a writer to stop being too precious about his words.

Currently head writer on SABC3’s Isidingo, he has written for television and radio as well as the stage, and is currently working on a novel.

• Greig Coetzee is giving a performance of White Men With Weapons at 8 pm today at the Catalina ­Theatre in Durban as part of the 25th anniversary of the End ­Conscription Campaign.

• Johnny Boskak is Feeling Funny and other plays , compiled and introduced by Hazel Barnes, is published by UKZN Press.

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