World premiere of JM Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K

JM Coetzee’s story has been brought to life with puppetry, performance, film and evocative music. Picture: Fiona McPherson

A special preview season of JM Coetzee’s Life and Times of Michael K, adapted for the stage by Lara Foot, in collaboration with the Handspring Puppet Company, takes place at the Baxter theatre from Monday June 7 to Wednesday June 16 June, at 7pm.

The world premiere will be livestreamed from the Baxter at the opening of the prestigious Theater der Welt Festival at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus in Germany, on Thursday June 17 and Friday June 18.

The co-production between Theater der Welt Festival, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Baxter Theatre Centre and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, brings together some of South Africa’s most revered, multi-award-winning artists.

Written and directed by Foot, it is the largest and most illustrious undertaking by the theatre over the past decade and is the culmination of two years of planning. It marks the first time that she will be working with the Tony award-winning Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler from the hit production War Horse-fame, along with a formidable cast and creative team.

The South African cast includes theatre legends Sandra Prinsloo, Andrew Buckland, Faniswa Yisa, puppet master Craig Leo, Roshina Ratnam, Carlo Daniels, Marty Kintu, Billy Langa, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe, along with German puppeteer Markus Schabbing.

Epic in scale, Life and Times of Michael K, is a multi-layered theatrical staging which combines puppetry, performance, film and evocative music, bringing to life Coetzee’s Booker Prize-winning novel.

The production was invited to debut at the Theater der Welt festival at the Düsseldorf Theatre in Germany, in June last year. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdown and travel restrictions, the festival was postponed to 2021. With the uncertainty of travel bans currently impacting many countries, the organisers decided to have the special preview in South Africa.

“The collaboration with our outstanding artistic partners at the Baxter and Handspring Puppet Company in South Africa has become even more intense, during this time of the pandemic. It represents a unique value of art: vivid partnership across borders,” says Stefan Schmidtke, artistic director of the Theater der Welt Festival.

The story follows Michael K, a simple man who embarks on a journey through South Africa, ravaged by civil war, to return his mother to die on the farm, where she was born. He finds strength in his own humanity, his profound connection to the earth and his unique path which, as it unfolds, reveals to him his reason for living.

All performances will be limited to a 250-seat capacity, with all Covid-19 protocols in place. Saturday matinees are at 2pm.

Book at or at Pick n Pay stores. For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities contact Leon van Zyl on 021 680 3972 or email or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or email