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Too often women like Florence Phillips were unsung heroes and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed.This Women’s Month the Market Theatre will highlight the contributions and impact that Florence Phillips had in building a greater understanding of art in early Johannesburg and its contemporary society.
It was her philanthropic nature which endeared her to both the world of artists and public alike. Florence was a woman of exceptional strength, passion, and character to have been able to promote and celebrate local and international artists and to persevere in building them a home at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG).
Too often women like Florence were unsung heroes and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, and strength they possessed created indispensable heritage from which we can draw pride, comfort, courage, and long-range vision. The story of our early pioneers can be used in a creative way to engage and inspire the public, including the next generation of woman pioneers.
In the world premiere of Florence, a one-person play directed by Greg Homann, playwright Myer Taub playfully experiments with time, place, language, and form to explore our contemporary moment. A disgruntled actress meets over lunch in a fancy restaurant with a playwright about the new work he has written that places Florence Phillips as a ghost at the Joubert Park fence outside the Johannesburg Art Gallery. While considering whether she will play the role, the actress imagines what it would mean to portray a dead white colonial figure today whose legacy and value is both contested and forgotten.
Starring Leila Henriques, the world-of-the-play moves across over 100 years of Johannesburg history revealing a city and capturing a struggle for recognition, renewal, unrequited love, hope, and prosperity. Homann says, “The politics of staging a play today that centres on the life of a white colonial figure is a complicated business, but that’s exactly what makes this play appealing to me – the playwright is not trying to place anyone on a pedestal, rather Taub is asking questions about what we value, how we think about history, and what we see as relevant or not.”
This dynamic trio of Taub, Homann, and Henriques have been brought together by the Artistic Director of the Market Theatre, James Ngcobo. He has also brought in Johannesburg based-sculptor, Richard Forbes, to design the set for the production. Award-winning lighting designer, Nomvula Molepo, will light the show with costumes by Karabo Legoabe and Nthabiseng Malaka, and sound design by Ntuthuko Mbuyazi.
Paul Duncan in Hidden Johannesburg said: “Visiting Joburg for its history is like attending a peepshow; the tantalizing glimpses are never as satisfying as they should be. Rapid changes in the city’s short 130-year history have meant that the cityscape’s appearance never tells the full story. You still have to dig to uncover gold here.”
Dorothea Sarah Florence Alexandra, Lady Phillips (née Ortlepp; 14 June 1863 – 23 August 1940), was a South African art patroness and promoter of indigenous culture. She was married to Sir Lionel Phillips, 1st Baronet, a mining magnate and politician and was most commonly known as Florence, her middle name.
She started acquiring paintings with a view to eventually founding an art gallery, which after many difficulties took shape as the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG). She played a leading role in projects aimed at cultivating and preserving the local artistic heritage. She headed a movement to preserve and restore the Koopmans-De Wet House in Cape Town and was an enthusiastic collector of Africana furniture, both for her own home and public institutions. She was instrumental, with Prof. G.E. Pearse, in establishing a Faculty of Architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand. Florence devoted her time to encouraging the preservation of national heritage culture and artefacts.
Florence will run at the Market Theatre from 3-26 August 2018.
Playwright: Myer Taub
Director: Greg Homann
Lighting Design: Nomvula Molepo
Costume Design: Karabo Legoabe & Nthabiseng Malaka
Set Design: Richard Forbes
Sound Design: Ntuthuko Mbuyazi
Stage Manager: Malebo Mokoto
Performer: Leila Henriques
Duration: 1 hour 15
Age Recommendation: 13 years L
Venue: The Barney Simon
Season: 3-26 August 2018
Performance times: Tuesday – Saturday at 20:15 and Sunday at 15:15
Ticket prices: Tuesday – Sunday R90.00 – R150.00
To make block bookings, please contact Anthony Ezeoke 011 832 1641 ext 203
For further information, interviews and images, contact:
Lusanda Zokufa, Senior Publicist, The Market Theatre
011 832 1641 ext 202 or 072 367 7867