Outrageous new play to premiere at Artscape

Adventurous theatre lovers in the Mother City are about to experience an explosive re-interpretation of some familiar Cape colonial history in an outrageous, new comic play, Contested Bodies or Doctor James Barry, Lord Charles Somerset and I which will have its world premiere at the Artscape Arena  from 16 March to 2 April 2022.

Contested Bodies concludes the Abrahamse and Meyer Summer Season, which kicked off in November 2021 with an acclaimed staging of Yukio Mishima’s The Lady Aoi and continued through February with a sold-out Tennessee Williams’ repertory of A Streetcar Named Desire and One Arm.

Almost seven years to the day after political activist, Chumani Maxwele, flung human excrement at the statue of British Imperialist Cecil John Rhodes, Abrahamse and Meyer will do some faeces flinging of their own in their latest “outrage for the stage” – a thrilling, provocative entertainment that is likely to be the most controversial and contested play of the year.

Contested Bodies explores themes of power, race, gender identity and masculinity (toxic and otherwise).

The play centres on the relationship between acclaimed surgeon, Doctor James Barry, his African manservant, John and the then, Governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Henry Somerset. Barry lived his entire adult life as a man but was named Margret Ann at birth and was known as female in childhood. Barry’s biological sex only became widely known to the public and his colleagues after his death in 1865.

In Contested Bodies, things get down and dirty in the Governor’s residence when the three men decide, as part of their evening’s entertainment, to enact a lewd and lascivious play penned by the ultimate libertine and provocateur, the salacious Marquis de Sade. The enactment of the De Sade play reveals many unspoken truths and recalibrates the men’s friendship and relationship with each other.

This volatile “comedy-of-very-bad-manners” stars Matthew Baldwin as the tempestuous Doctor James Barry, Marcel Meyer as his good friend, Lord Charles Somerset, and introduces local audiences to up-and-coming young actor, Lungile Lallie as Barry’s trusted manservant, John.

Apart from being shocking and sensational, Contested Bodies promises to be a stunning, visual feast with a sumptuous scenic design by director Fred Abrahamse, detailed period costumes by Marcel Meyer, and moody lighting by award-winning, Faheem Bardien.

Please note Contested Bodies is strictly intended for adult audiences only and carries an 18 age-restriction. The play contains scenes with strong language, nudity, violence, prejudice, and sex: [SL/N/P/S].

Evening performances start at 18:00 with matinees at 15:00. Tickets range from R50 – R250 and booking is open at Computicket, Shoprite, Checkers outlets, Computicket online and Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695.  There are discounts for students/scholars, pensioners, and block bookings of10 or more.  These are only available at the Artscape Box Office.


Contested Bodies


Doctor James Barry, Lord Charles Somerset, and I

An Outrage for the Stage

by Fred Abrahamse & Marcel Meyer

Directed & designed by Fred Abrahamse

Starring Matthew Baldwin, Marcel Meyer and Lungile Lallie

Lighting Design: Faheem Bardien

Costume Design: Marcel Meyer

Artscape Arena, Cape Town: 16 March – 2 April 2022

Tickets: R50 – R250.

Booking at Computicket / Artscape Dial-a-Seat 021 421 7695