Documentary: A Feast in Time of Plague, South Africa

This media release has been supplied by Amber Fox-Martin, co-director of A Feast in Time of Plague with Philip Theron. The film has its world premiere at Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival. This film opens on Friday 21 at 9am and will be available until August 30 [until midnight]. There is a 400 view limit per screening at Encounters.

This 38 minute film is a must watch for theatre makers, providing insight into the contribution of Afrikaans theatre makers, working in Cape Town, in the 70s and 80s, under the yoke of the Apartheid regime. Beyond its value as a documentary, archival footage conjures up a sense of theatre master class – so that we may look and learn from productions which were ground breaking and which are bound to inspire contemporary theatre makers in the use of metaphor, image and approach. Read the review on TheCapeRobyn:


A fascinating new documentary exploring the work of groundbreaking Afrikaans theatre-makers during apartheid has its world premiere at the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival from 20–30 August.

A FEAST IN TIME OF PLAGUE chronicles the artistic responses by state-funded theatre-makers to the apartheid state.  Using a combination of rarely seen archival material, music and interviews with theatre luminaries who worked for the Cape Performing Arts Board (CAPAB), the film probes themes such as the implementation of apartheid legislation within the arts council, forms of subversion in Afrikaans theatre, and the effect of censorship on theatre-makers.

Created by historian, researcher and stage manager Amber Fox-Martin and filmmaker Philip Theron, the film was inspired by the stories of Marthinus Basson during Fox-Martin’s time as a student at Stellenbosch University. She interviewed theatre-makers such as Pieter Fourie, Marthinus Basson, Johan Esterhuizen, Pieter-Dirk Uys, Percy Tucker, Robin Malan, Albert Maritz, Royston Stoffels, Liz Dick, Marina Albertyn and Mike van Graan.

A FEAST IN TIME OF PLAGUE explores what it was like to be a theatre-maker and a theatre-goer in the apartheid state. The compelling stories shared by Marthinus Basson were my launching pad for the concept of this documentary,” says Fox-Martin. “We were inspired by two aspects: the wealth of interesting accounts shared by our interviewees, and the sense of mischief and playful provocation they brought to their work during a time of upheaval and great political stress.

We wanted the film to transcend its historical interest by relating it to the current South African theatre industry, so in closing we asked our interviewees to reflect on the state of theatre today. We want to thrill our viewers, and leave them with something to relate to and think about long after the credits stop rolling.”

A FEAST IN TIME OF PLAGUE was made in association with the Stellenbosch University History Department and formed the thesis of Fox-Martin’s Honours degree, for which she received a cum laude grading. The title of the film is inspired by an Alexander Pushkin play, where the central figure taunts death in a toast: “And so, O Plague, we hail thy reign!”.

Landmark productions from the 70s and 80s discussed in the film include August, August, August (1969), Titus Andronicus (1970), Kanna hy kô Hystoe (1974), Bacchus in Die Boland (1975), Die Plaasvervangers (1978), Christine (1986), Anatomie Titus: Fall of Rome (1986), Quartet (1988), Piekniek by Dingaan (1989) and Kinkels innie Kabel (1989).

A FEAST IN TIME OF PLAGUE will be streaming at the Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival from 20–30 August. There will be 24/7 streaming available. To book, visit:

Tickets for all the films at this year’s festival are free of charge. To book, viewers need to register on the Encounters website and add the film to their basket. Viewing will be capped at 400 tickets.

The film has a PG13 (LN) age advisory

View the trailer for A FEAST IN TIME OF PLAGUE

For media enquiries contact Amber Fox-Martin or / 072 865 9756

Amber Fox-Martin

Amber Fox-Martin is a historian, researcher and stage manager. Amber studied at Stellenbosch University, where she graduated cum laude in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in drama. She majored in stage management and theatre studies, as well as history, which she studied with intention of developing research in the field. She furthered her studies the following year by completing her honour’s in history. Under the mentorship of Professor Vivian Bickford-Smith, Amber created her thesis documentary film, A Feast in Time of Plague, which earned a cum laude grading and is set to have its world premiere at the 22nd Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival in August 2020.

Apart from her own studies, Amber currently holds an ad-hoc lecturing post at the Stellenbosch University Drama Department, where she teaches sound and stage management. Due to COVID-19 and the university’s switch to online teaching, Amber has subsequently developed various digital resources and tutorials for her students. Her teaching is largely based on her experience as a stage manager. Since 2017, she has worked as a freelancer in the entertainment industry in the capacity of venue technician, sound operator, venue manager, production manager, assistant stage manager and stage manager for various productions. Most notably, Amber has recently worked with the likes of Marthinus Basson and Janice Honeyman. In 2019, she was employed by the Adam Small Theatre Complex to work as a stage manager and administrative assistant. She has launched social media platforms for the new theatre and has documented many of the live events hosted there.

Amber’s focus for 2020 has been on research and teaching. In addition to joining the South African History Online team where she has since co-ordinated one of their main projects, Amber is also working on her master’s degree. She aims to use further research to expand on some of the topics explored in A Feast in Time of Plague. Amber’s approach to research is unique: using documentary as a medium to explore theatre history. Her honour’s thesis has opened up a novel division of history research at Stellenbosch University.

Image credit: Antoinette Kellermann and Neels Coetzee in Quartet, 1988. CAPAB. Courtesy of Artscape Archive. 

Read the review on TheCapeRobyn: