Play explores themes of power, race, gender identity and masculinity

From left, Marcel Meyers, Lungile Lallie and Matthew Baldwin in Contested Bodies or Doctor James Barry, Lord Charles Somerset and I. PICTURE: Fiona Macpherson

A new comic play, Contested Bodies or Doctor James Barry, Lord Charles Somerset and I, will have its world premiere at the Artscape Arena from Wednesday March 16 to Saturday April 2.

The production concludes the Abrahamse and Meyer summer season, which kicked off in November 2021 with a staging of Yukio Mishima’s The Lady Aoi and continued through February with a sold-out Tennessee Williams’ repertory of A Streetcar Named Desire and One Arm.

Contested Bodies explores themes of power, race, gender identity and masculinity.

The play centres on the relationship between acclaimed surgeon, Doctor James Barry, his African manservant, John, and the then Governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Henry Somerset. Barry lived his entire adult life as a man but was named Margret Ann at birth and was known as female in childhood. Barry’s biological sex only became widely known to the public and his colleagues after his death in 1865.

In Contested Bodies, three men in the Governor’s residence decide, as part of their evening’s entertainment, to enact a lewd and lascivious play penned by the Marquis de Sade. The enactment of the De Sade play reveals many unspoken truths and recalibrates the men’s friendship and relationship with each other.

The play carries an 18 age-restriction for strong language, nudity, violence, prejudice and sex.

Evening performances start at 6pm with matinees at 3pm. Tickets range from R50 to R250. Book through Computicket or the Artscape Dial-a-Seat on 021 421 7695.

  • Artscape will honour the legacy of the poet Adam Small in from Tuesday March 15 to Saturday March 19. The production seeks to give new life to Small’s written works. This will be done under the leadership of Frieda van den Heever and Dean Balie with musical accompaniment by Die Khoisan Gypsy Band. As a young intellectual, Professor Small strongly advocated the use of one’s voice. It was this medium which he used to denounce various human rights abuses under the Apartheid government. This he did using various public platforms such as newspaper columns, open letters, his poems, plays, essays and public speaking. The production further explores who Small was as a person and an activist.