Life and love of the La Gumas in play

Elton Landrew as Alex La Guma and Rehane Abrahams as Blanche La Guma in Dance of the La Gumas: Revolution, Rumba and Romance.

The Artscape theatre will start celebrations for the centenary of author and activist Alex La Guma with the return of the play Dance of the La Gumas: Revolution, Rumba and Romance, by Basil Appollis and Sylvia Vollenhoven, from Wednesday March 13 to Saturday March 23.

Born in District Six on February 20 1924, Justin Alexander La Guma was the son of the prominent trade unionist and Communist Party leader, Jimmy La Guma. The hallmark of Alex La Guma’s career is his fiction, mostly based on the lives of ordinary people and their daily fight to survive.

As an activist artist he had one driving passion, to see a liberated South Africa where the oppression of Apartheid and the exploitation of capitalism was dealt a death blow.

La Gumas: Revolution, Rumba and Romance premiered at Artscape in 2022. The writer’s widow, activist Blanche La Guma was in the audience to experience this artistic tribute to their life’s work, before passing at the age of 95 the following year.

Elton Landrew stars as Alex La Guma and Rehane Abrahams as Blanche La Guma while Jacques Theron plays various roles, mainly the security policeman Spyker van Wyk.

The play follows the tumultuous journey of Alex and Blanche La Guma as they travelled the world with their two sons, Eugene and Barto, taking the fight for justice in South Africa to far flung corners of the globe. Throughout it all their love for each other and their joie de vivre – the dancing, the singing and passionate living – shines through.

The memories, stories and harrowing experiences are brought to life with music, dance and poetic accounts, using La Guma’s own writing. The play explores from their early days in District Six when Alex and Blanche were young sweethearts, to their underground work for the Communist Party and his life as a Treason Trialist. Then comes the heartbreak of exile, the strangeness of London and finally a diplomatic posting in Cuba.

The last dance of this heroic love story happens in Havana in October 1985 when Alex dies of a heart attack at the age of 61.

Several real characters in the La Gumas’ lives are in “conversation” with the theatre audience and the actors, using the graphic design artistry of Kirsti Cumming. The lighting is by Faheem Bardien and choreography by Grant van Ster. There is an age restriction of 10.

Performances are Tuesdays to Fridays at 7.30pm and on Saturdays at 2pm and 7.30pm. Tickets cost R150 through Webtickets.