Another powerful Van Graan play for Cape Town


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From left Kai Luke Brümmer, Marty Kintu and Mbulelo Grootboom in a scene from When Swallows Cry which opens at the Baxter Theatre on 31 January.
From left Kai Luke Brümmer, Marty Kintu and Mbulelo Grootboom in a scene from When Swallows Cry which opens at the Baxter Theatre on 31 January.

Mike van Graan’s When Swallows Cry is a trilogy of playlets around the theme of migration and, in particular, the experiences of African migrants.

After premiering to critical acclaim and sold-out houses at the Market Theatre last year, Van Graan’s When Swallows Cry is part of the Baxter Theatre’s 2018 opening season of high quality productions.

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When Swallows Cry is a hard-hitting trilogy of playlets that explores the inequities and layered complexities of contemporary global mobility, particularly from African perspectives. Once forced to “migrate” as slaves, Africans are now among the world’s least attractive migrants in the wealthy economies of the world, many built – not insubstantially – on African labour and mineral resources.

The play interweaves three scenarios, set in Africa or about African migrants and refugees. There’s the Somalian businessman who flees xenophobic violence in South Africa and travels to the US; two Zimbabweans in an Australian refugee centre; and a Canadian teacher held for ransom by bandits in West Africa. Directed by Lesedi Job, the talented cast comprises Mbulelo Grootboom, Marty Kintu and Kai Luke Brümmer, all of whom are challenged to play three contrasting characters in the three interspliced stories.

Mike van Graan's new work, When Swallows Cry, opens at The Market Theatre next week.Job, a recipient of the Sophie Mgcina Emerging Voice Award, made her directorial debut with When Swallows Cry at the Market Theatre in 2017. Cape Town audiences will remember her from Lara Foot’s Fishers of Hope, for which she received a Naledi Theatre Award nomination. She returns to direct this independent production made possible by the Baxter Theatre Centre and a number of “Angels” who support Van Graan’s work.

This play comes at a time when the theme of migration and refugees has taken on huge political importance globally. It is against this background that Ibsen International, a Norwegian Theatre Company, commissioned Van Graan and seven other playwrights from around the world to produce new works on this theme. Over a period of nine months during 2015/16, these playwrights (three from Europe, two Chinese, an American, a Russian and Van Graan) met in three Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou) for a week at a time, to develop their scripts with dramaturges from Norway, Italy and Slovenia, with Chinese actors and finally with directors from Hong Kong, Germany and Norway in this unique international project.

When Swallows Cry opens at the Flipside Theatre on 1 February. Tickets for the first week’s shows, from 31 January (preview) to 8 February are R80. Book at

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