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Thursday, August 7, 2008


The continuing collaboration between Durban director and composer Jerry Pooe and the Netherlands-based Het Waterhuis theatre company in Rotterdam has produced yet another fine production, following the multi-media theatre piece Freebirdsin 2002 and Vuka! Vuka!in 2005.

Jerry Pooe and Roel Twijnstra’s interactive directorial partnership, combined with an intensely moving and powerful script by Dick van de Heuvel and Jerry Pooe, has resulted in Man’s World – Umhlaba Wethuwhich is about be translated into Zulu and will eventually embark on a tour of some 80 shows around KwaZulu-Natal.

It is evening – two ancestral spirits are waiting. For what, we are not sure. They keep looking into the distance expectantly before the female one gently touches her forehead to the other in a gesture that reads “Good luck” so we understand that there’s a difficult task ahead.

Into the auditorium explodes the energy of four men, singing and dancing – and carrying a coffin! They are more than a little drunk and the body of their mother must be having a rough ride! Disparate characters all, they are four brothers –Mbeki (the eldest), Sxaxa (the middle one) and the twins Goso and Sizo. They now embark on a wake for their departed parent, their consumption of alcohol cleverly aided by the spirits who magic away empty bottles from their hands and replace them with full ones. As their tongues and minds loosen, memories, accusations and revelations are the order of the day – daring to say things they would never have said when she was alive. We discover they are all from different fathers and have major issues with their mother and with each other.

The main character is Sxaxa. Raped by his adopted father, he hates women as he feels he has now become one. Infected with AIDS, he is bitter, angry and wracked with guilt at the things he has done in his life which include child rape. Mbeki has been in exile, spending most of his life in a disciplined environment and he wants to control the others. The twins just want to have a good time, dance and kid around – that is, until the violent side of their natures are revealed. Through all this, the spirits watch, manipulate, guide and – in impressive imagery - become their mother.

The production is blessed with a very strong cast. As Sxaxa, Thulane Mngadi puts in an excellent performance with Thandeka Mdlalose beautifully controlled as the female spirit, playing opposite a compassionate Sibusiso Mbhele. One can always expect good work from Eager Artists stalwart Xolani Henema while Bongumusa Shabalala and Musawenkosi Shabalala (twins in real life!) as the streetwise Sizo and Goso had just the right level of youthful energy. They have a dramatic scene where the dialogue literally crackles from one to the other.

Without giving away one of the most beautiful images of the show, suffice it to say that a teddy bear plays a strong role, eventually embracing the dying Sxaxa. The creative team felt that they needed to find an object which represented childhood innocence, an object of affection and comfort.

Patti Nokwe and Madala Kunene’s contribution to the music and eloquent songs is evident and I loved Judith Abris’s costumes for the spirits. The teddy bear looked great in his outfit as well!

If SA Breweries isn’t on board as a sponsor, then it certainly should be! They get a major amount of free advertising from the set which is made up of a large number of beer crates and there are bottles everywhere!

Man’s Worldhas received funding from the Department of Health and an important aspect of the tour is that a mobile clinic will accompany the production. The hope is that youngsters will be sufficiently encouraged by the content of the play to go and have themselves tested for HIV/AIDS after the show.

Man’s Worldwill travel to Holland in January 2009 where it will perform at some 20 different venues.

Man’s World(Umhlaba Wethu) has one more performance tomorrow morning (August 8) at 10h00 at the Stable Theatre, 115 Johannes Nkosi Street (Alice Street) on the corner of Russell Street extension and Johannes Nkosi. Bookings and more information from Thobeka on 031 301 8752. – Caroline Smart