East of West pp 143-165 | Cite as

King Kong in Johannesburg: Popular Theatre and Political Protest in 1950s South Africa

  • Cynthia Erb


In August 1999, the South African musical Kat and the Kings had its Broadway debut. The fictional story of a 1950s a cappella doo-wop group struggling for fame, Kat and the Kings is set against the backdrop of District Six, an urban district of Cape Town that was allocated to people of mixed race (the group designated as “colored” in South Africa). Throughout the 1950s District Six had a reputation for being both dicey slum and thriving cultural center. It was doubtless the latter urban image— as home to a diverse, productive population—that led the apartheid regime to respond in 1966 by declaring District Six an area henceforth reserved for whites, to be cleared of its nonwhite population and bulldozed.1 Although Kat and the Kings had been both a commercial and a critical success in Cape Town and London, it received a mixed review from New York Times critic Ben Brantley, who found its musical comedy approach to the events of the apartheid era disconcerting.2


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Copyright information

© Claire Sponsler and Xiaomei Chen 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia Erb

There are no affiliations available

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