Drama as Truth Commission: Reconciliation and Dealing with the Past in South African and Irish Theatre

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South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an internationally regarded – if contested – touchstone for transitional justice, but it functioned above all as exemplary theatre, bringing together thousands of disparate voices. Like the theatrical space generally, it provided a forum for differing narratives about the past to be aired in post-Apartheid South Africa. In Ireland, on the other hand, there has not been – nor are we likely to see – any truth commission. It is this essay’s contention that drama is the nearest the society will get to exploring the past, with the theatre a safe space in which storytelling and debates are taking place beyond the impasse of the political culture. This article approaches this through four plays: Athol Fugard’s The Train Driver and Owen McCafferty’s Quietly (both 2012) and David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue and Mongiwekhaya’s I See You (both 2016). All reflect complications of dialogue(s) taking place on the past, and themes of reconciliation, in their respective territories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-119
Number of pages22
Issue number1
Early online date7 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2021

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