On the opening night of The Promise, a new stage adaptation of Damon Galgut’s Booker Prize-winning novel, I caught a snippet of conversation between the author and some acquaintances hobnobbing in the foyer. “The main difference between the book and the play,” he reassured them, “is that the play is much funnier”.

Galgut was doing himself a disservice. The low-key mordant humour of the novel is indeed turned into a sustained metatheatrical comic mode that serves as a counterpoint to the grim plotline. But collaborating with director Sylvaine Strike to develop the prose text into a dramatic script, Galgut has woven a complex set of intertextual strands into a new hybrid work...

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