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Friday, May 13, 2011


( Pic by Val Adamson: Christopher Mathe and Orapeleng Mongale ... and the boxes!)

Rice is one of three productions forming part of The Playhouse Company’s second Community Arts Festival where a group of talented actors and their directors and scriptwriters have been mentored by experienced theatre practitioners. Currently running in the Playhouse Loft Theatre, the festival features three productions - the other two being Just Don’t and Sisenga Ilala - and each work focuses on important social issues.

The festival is geared to offer a platform for artists and arts practitioners to stage their performance works in a professional environment.

I have to admit to a vested interest at the outset as I was contracted to train the casts in voice production. It has been a highly rewarding process as the actors are eager to learn and responded well to exploring the capacity of their voices. The other mentors were Edmund Mhlongo (director of the festival), Faca Kulu, Linda Gcwensa, Musa Hlatshwayo, Zinhle Gumede, Ashwin Singh and Dr Christopher John who brought their valuable skills to the project in terms of acting, dance, music and scriptwriting.

I highly commend the Playhouse Company for this project. Impressive progress has been made from the day when the three productions were first presented to the mentors. The actors have grown in voice and movement skills and the productions benefited from improved scripting and the extension of ideas.

From the beginning, I was impressed with the good working relationship of the Rice company – a three-man group comprising director Keaorata Gaokgwathe with actors Orapeleng Mongale and Christopher Mathe. Internally supportive and full of good humour, the threesome from Kimberley fitted in well with their Durban counterparts.

Pushing a strong anti-crime message, Rice is about two young brothers whose parents are killed in a car accident. The elder, Karabo (Christopher Mathe), makes a promise that he will look after his younger brother, the vulnerable and naiive Mothusimang (Orapeleng Mongale). Things aren’t easy and Karabo turns to crime after he loses his job and their aunt turns against them. This skilfully written and directed piece sees the two actors taking on a number of different characters as they progress with ease through a fast-moving series of scenarios, some lasting no more than a minute.

Rice is a excellent vehicle to show off their versatility and moods, with Christopher particularly impressing with his sensitivity in poignant scenes while being viciously criminal and bullying in others. Orapeleng had the most comedy moments and was hilarious in roles ranging from a timid schoolgirl and a gangster misfit to a street seller and concerned prison nursing sister.

Deserving a mention all on its own is the “set” – eight cardboard boxes which carry props, are used as seats, ATM’s or tombstones and regularly get chucked around. Must be good cardboard because they still look good after four weeks of rehearsal!

Rice is about an hour in length and is well worth a visit. It has two more performances – today (May 14) at 15h00 and 18h00. Admission is free. – Caroline Smart