Bringing Jooste to the stage

03 March 2003
Multi-talented: Basil Appollis, plays the dual role of director and dramatist for the stage version of Pamela Jooste's Dance With A Poor Man's Daughter.

ACTOR, writer, director and UCT alumnus, Basil Appollis has spent the last few months adapting South African author Pamela Jooste's novel, Dance With A Poor Man's Daughter for the stage.

Commissioned by UCT, Appollis spent two months adapting the 345-page novel, and the last five weeks in rehearsals, directing his 15-member cast.

Adapting a book that has received several prestigious South African and international literary awards (it is currently one of the prescribed readings for grade ten English learners in the Western Cape) is no easy feat, says Appollis.

“The hardest thing about adapting this book has been deciding what to leave out. There is a lot of detail in 345-pages. My first draft of the play was four hours long. I would love to do a four-hour long production of this book but I had to cut it down to two,” he explains.

Dance With A Poor Man's Daughter is told through the eyes of 11-year old Lily Daniels and is a story about the culture of the coloured community at the time when apartheid threatened its destruction through forced removals.

According to Appollis, the play and the book look at how people were affected by this chapter of history by focusing on the Daniels family and, more specifically, on the relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter.

“In my personal opinion, this is a different approach to historical drama because it focuses on the personal lives of the characters within a historical context,” he adds.

Appollis assures fans of the book that he has not strayed from the original storyline, but instead he has used the existing narrative and played out whatever dialogue was already in the book. “I have taken a linear approach to the story, because I believe that if you skip around too much in your storytelling you might lose your audience.”

Dance With A Poor Man's Daughter will run from March 13 to March 29 at the Arena Theatre on Hiddingh Campus.

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