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Second chances

| March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

Title: Second chances
Author: Maria Phalime
Publisher: Pearson
Imprint: Maskew Miller Longman
ISBN: 978-0-636-15067-0
Title: Doorways
Author: Charmaine Kendal
Title: The C lub
Author: Stephen Finn
Publisher: Pearson
Imprint: Maskew Miller Longman
ISBN: 978-0-636-17652-2
Reviewed by: Fiona de Villiers

Second chances, a short novel by Maria Phalime, The Club, a short play by Stephen Finn and Doorways, another short play by Charmaine Kendal, have all garnered recognition at previous Maskew Miller Longman (MML) Literature Awards.

Finn was a finalist last year (the awards explored the genre of drama in 2014), while Kendal took first prize in the English category. Phalime took first prize for an English novel in 2013. The MML Literature award, organised by Pearson Publishers, is currently the only national literature award that offers prizes for literature written in South Africa’s official languages.

Aimed at developing literature for youth, the competition acts as a platform for aspiring writers. There’s a desperate shortage of quality local literature for young readers and I thoroughly enjoyed all three of these bold new works. Doorways would work extremely well in the drama classroom for teens who may be about to explore the concept of a morality play.

Short extracts could be performed in tandem with performed pieces from the most famous morality play of medieval times, Everyman. The echoes of Antigone, by Jean Anouilh, should also not be ignored. The primary subject matter of Doorways – teen suicide – is fairly grim, but by now everybody knows that drama class is the one of the few places where tough topics can be safely explored, as long as there’s an excellent teacher at hand. Kendal has cleverly kept sets and props to a bare minimum so that the play can really be performed anywhere.

This minimalist approach always means that young actors can get to grips with characterisation and dialogue. Dialogue is something Kendal and the publishers have ensured should happen at any point during an engagement with this text. Supplementary activities allow readers to talk about pace and plot and the function of key characters; as well as mood, tone and message. Writing-based activities extend things even further: teens will be able to voice their opinions about social media and peer pressure, for example.

This last issue forms the backbone of Finn’s dramatic piece, The Club. Plays about bullying can often be ‘preachy’ and just plain boring, but Finn’s approach reveals an adroit grasp of how subtly today’s teens can manipulate each other. The dialogue is punchy and the play begins and ends with clever ‘rap-styled’ verse.

Category: Autumn 2015, Book Reviews

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