Re-Imagining Coloured Identities in Volume Please!: Performance encounter as critical cultural dialogue in the making of a contemporary musical


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis comprises:
 Performances of Volume Please! which was staged in The Rose Theatre,
Edge Hill University and subsequently in Westbury, South Africa in 2018.
 and this written component or complementary writing which functions as a
commentary to the performance by elucidating the politics of identity that
informed its creation.

The performance was a confluence of performance-poetry, jazz and autobiography.
It detailed (as does the written component) the relationship between the candidate
and his deceased father, and the precariousness of his position as a Coloured man
in South Africa, where he is neither ‘black enough nor white enough’. Both
performance and written commentary expound the subversive improvisatory
challenge to hegemony by jazz as an improvisatory phenomenon, and a release from
subjugation in non-verbal self-expression where the ‘self’ is always in post-modern

The written component examines the manner in which historical narrative
conventions implicate in popular cultural practices. To this end, a closer reading of
King Kong (1959) - the first internationally acclaimed musical, then billed as an Africa
jazz opera – reveals the first omission of the Coloured (Mixed Race) subject. Such
omission was arguably not arbitrary when considering the liminal positionality of the
Coloured subjects in the South African political collective unconscious. Central to the
reading of cultural praxis alongside political thought, is how the two imbricate in the
construction, consumption, and maintenance of identity phenomena. In other words,
how the imperial dominant political ideologies colluded with a popular musical in the
meanings of Coloured identities on a mass scale. Consequently, this study links this
phenomenon to the public construction and consumption of Coloured identities in
popular South African musical performance practices. Advancing from the empirical
premise of the marginal socio-political status of the South African coloured subjects,
the writing brings to the fore the connectedness of cultural praxis with the political
realities. To this end, the project employs contemporary black performance
strategies – jazz, spoken-word-poetry, and autobiography to argue for a radical shift
in our understanding of Colouredness.
Date of Award16 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorVICTOR MERRIMAN (Director of Studies) & Lena Simic (Supervisor)

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