Dusty Won't Play by Annie Caulfield

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Afternoon Drama on BBC Radio 4

BBC Radio 4, 12 February 2013
In 1964 the singer Dusty Springfield (Charlie Brooks) visited South Africa on tour with the express intention of playing to non-segregated audiences during the time of apartheid.  Needless to say she fell foul of the authorities, especially after having performed onre or two concerts; as a result, she was confined to her hotel and hustled on to a plan back to the United |Kingdom as speedily as possible.
Within that basic framework Marilyn Imrie's production had some trenchant things to say about dictatorships and the ways in which they could be resisted.  The South African police employed a variety of strategies to suppress Dusty's resistance, including confining her to her room, trying to prise her band away from her with the offcer of untold riches, preventing her making telephone calls home, and forcing her to sign alternative contracts decreeing that she could only play to white audiences.  Needless to say Dusty was very frightened, and by the end of the play she seemed glad to return home.
What was perhaps more interesting was the effect of her concert tour.  While she could be seen on the one hand as a naive idealist, trying to challenge a well-established racist government, her presence in the country inspired the black South Africans to develop their own methods of resistance - for example, removing their hats as a gesture of self-assertion.  They were no longer prepared to be treated as second-class citizens, bowing and scraping to their white masters; they wanted to hold their heads up high as individuals.
Through intelligent use of doubling, Imrie's cast, including Jack Klaff, Vincent Ebrahim and Jonny Freeman, showed how racial differences were purely arbitrary; the product of a society increasingly aware of its fragility at that time, and hence becoming more and more extreme in its reinforcement of white authority.
An instructive piece of social history, Dusty Won't Play also showed how individuals don't necessarily have to participate in direct political activism in order to inspire others.