Matthews All the Rage as Poets Pay Tribute

Article excerpt


WITH WORK once viewed as a threat to society and banned in South Africa, 80-year-old poet and storyteller James Matthews will be celebrated in Live Rage, a dynamic production that opens at Artscape Arena Theatre on Wednesday.

Live Rage pays tribute to Matthews, a bohemian poet whose work was banned under the apartheid government but was translated and published overseas.

In 1976 Matthews was detained for four months. Even when solitary confinement separated him from his people, copies of his poems changed hands and were shared under candlelight by locals.

For 23 years he was denied a passport but he became celebrated around the world. A recipient of many awards, Matthews's gift for creative writing was first exposed to the public in 1946 at the age of 17.

His first published collection of poetry, Cry Rage, co-written with Gladys Thomas and published in 1972, became the first collection of poetry to be banned by the apartheid regime.

Since then he has gone on to publish Pass Me a Meatball, Jones, No Time for Dreams, Poisoned Wells and Other Delights, Flames and Flowers and most recently Age is a Beautiful Phase.

Even when Matthews explored themes of love, music or family-hood in his writings, he reflected the atrocious conditions under which ordinary South Africans lived during apartheid years.

"We were conditioned," says Matthews. "You were not allowed to fall in love across the colour bar... how sick is that? How can you condition love?"

With the country's fairly new democracy, Matthews is still critical of the regime.

"I'm a poet, a storyteller who has a duty to give a true reflection of what life is about," he says.

"If the government is corrupt and the people are not happy, I have to write that and expose it to the world because government is put into power by the people and they have to serve them accordingly."

Through his live performances at political rallies Matthews influenced up-and-coming poets, and much of this influence comes alive in this melancholic performance, Live Rage.

Borrowing its title from his collection of poetry, Cry Rage, it is performed by a dynamic cast of poets, actors, musicians and dancers, directed by playwright Michael Wentworth with musical direction by Glen Arendse, and choreographed by Leanne Gohse.

The poetic tribute features poets such as Glen Arendse, Garth Erasmus and Jethro Louw from Khoi Konnexion; Chris Ferndale, Zenariah Barends and Primrose Mrwebi from the Cape Cultural Collective; and independent poets Khadija Heeger and Angelo Lackay. …