A new play telling the story of South Africa’s first black magazine receives its world premiere in London in September. Who Killed Mr Drum?, written by Fraser Grace and Sylvester Stein and based on Stein’s 1999 book of the same name, opens on 1 September 2005 (previews from 26 August) at west London’s Riverside Studios where its limited season continues until 8 October.

Not long after Stein took over the editorship of Drum in 1955, the magazine’s anti-apartheid stance forced the management to order editorial restraint, in turn forcing Stein and most of his staff into exile. Set in the 1950s in Johannesburg’s vibrant Sophiatown - which under government orders was bulldozed, its black inhabitants forcibly removed to Soweto - Who Killed Mr Drum? reports on the increasingly politicised magazine reporting the situation to its readers.

Leading South African actor Sello Maake Ka-Ncube, seen in the West End last year in the title role of the RSC’s acclaimed production of Othello, plays assistant editor and literary spirit Can Themba. Stephen Billington is Stein. The cast also features Wela Frasier, Marcel McCalla and Lucian Msamati.

After settling in Britain, Stein’s first novel, a satire on apartheid called Second Class Taxi, was banned after becoming a bestseller in his native South Africa. In addition to Who Killed Mr Drum?, his other books include The Bewilderness, Old Letch and 99 Ways to Reach 100. Grace’s other plays include Perpetua (which jointly won the 1996 Verity Bargate Award), Frobisher’s Gold, Bubble and, premiering this autumn as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new work festival, Breakfast with Mugabe.

Who Killed Mr Drum? is directed by Paul Robinson and designed by Francisco Rodriguez-Weil with an original score by Juwan Ogungbe. The Treatment Theatre production is presented at Riverside Studios, timed to coincide with the start of Black History Month in October, by Andrew Fishwick, Sarah Trahearn and Paul Robinson.

- by Terri Paddock