A Gay Man in South Africa’s Apartheid Army

The world premiere stage adaptation of Moffie at the Riverside Studios

‘Moffie’ is a South African slur for a gay man
‘Moffie’ is a South African slur for a gay man

May 27, 2024

Moffie, the world premiere stage adaptation of André Van de Merwe’s autobiographical novel, is coming up at The Riverside Studios

The play, by South African playwright Philip Rademeyer, tells the story of a gay teenager conscripted into the apartheid era South African Defence Force.

It features a dramatic monologue, performed by Kai Luke Brümmer, who is reprising his role as ‘Nicholas van der Swart’, the character he portrayed in South African director Oliver Hermanus’s 2019 film adaptation of the novel.

It’s 1979 and South Africa’s government's main concern is keeping Southern Africa free of communism, to protect the Afrikaner people, Christianity, and the free world. To do this, they need bodies, and seventeen-year-old Nicholas van der Swart is conscripted into the South African Defence Force and finds himself in the dark heart of a regime that demands absolute conformity, brute masculinity, racism, and bigotry.

Set against the backdrop of apartheid South Africa, "Moffie" traces Nicholas's internal battle in discovering his own identity amidst the violence of South Africa's border war, which took place between 1966 - 1989. Facing the dread of being labelled a 'moffie'—a derogatory term for being gay—and the risk of being outed and the ever-present fear of exposure, "Moffie" is an exploration of toxic masculinity and trauma, highlighting how, 30 years into South Africa's democracy, the emotional wounds inflicted during those turbulent times persist, offering a reflection on the lingering scars of the past and their influence on the present and future.

Greg Karvellas, the former Artistic Director of The Fugard Theatre in Cape Town, directs with designs by Niall Griffin and Sound Design by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, the former Musical Director of The Fugard Theatre.

Greg Karvellas said, “The much-lauded 2019 Oliver Hermanus film adaptation of ‘Moffie,’ was a deeply affecting portrayal of a dark chapter in South African history, seldom discussed by the tens of thousands of now old, white South African men who were traumatised by the brutality of their experience as boys. ‘Moffie’ is a South African slur for a gay man, and it was a weaponised to shame white South African males into submission in defence of apartheid in the1980’s. Bringing this story to the London stage offers an opportunity to engage with its themes through the medium of a powerful dramatic monologue in this the 30th anniversary year of South Africa’s democracy.”

It is being performed at Studio 3 at Riverside Studios from Wednesday 5 – Sunday 30 June.

Tickets are now on sale priced at £25 for general admission and £19.50 for concessions.

Audience discretion is advised due to mature themes addressed in the play, which include bigotry, descriptions of violence, sexual assault, child abuse and suicide.


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