Greig Coetzee's latest play Happy Natives is a triumphant confirmation of this writer's ability to comment satirically and powerfully on South African society. The play is extremely gripping, very funny and yet keeps surprising the audience with its insight into the complexities of cross-cultural relationships, ten years on from the start of the rainbow nation. The play shows how little we still know each other and how South Africans still make assumptions about each other based on racial grouping rather than on individual reality. This is rich material for comedy, and Coetzee excels in using such theatrical techniques as the reversal of expectation and the revelation of the unexpected and the contradictory. Happy Natives is very contemporary, looking at the way in which South Africans struggle to define their present identity. Coetzee's play points out just what an interesting and richly human world we inhabit. He shows that no human being in fact fits into the images that the media would like to sell us, and that the effort required to relate authentically to one another is worthwhile. A willingness to listen, a tolerance of different ways, and a sense of one's own worth are shown to be ways in which one can enjoy diversity.
Publication Date: 6/1/2003