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Wednesday, September 21, 2011


(Mandisa-Roeleene Haarhoff)

Review of Crush Hopper at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival by Caroline Smart.

Winner of the Audience Vote for Best Performance at the 2011 Musho! Festival and a 2011 National Arts Festival Ovation Award, Crush Hopper is about a young coloured girl growing up in a small Eastern Cape town and the romantic crushes she has had throughout her life.

I missed this production at both Musho! and in Grahamstown, so I was delighted to see it on the Witness Hilton Arts Festival programme. Mandisa-Roeleene Haarhoff puts in a compelling performance from start to finish of this refreshing and poignant drama that she has written herself.

Putting herself as the central character, she runs the gamut of emotions from child-play to the agony of rejection with a focused professional energy that is commendable in a young actress. Bright-eyed and with a disarming smile, she engages with her audience as she describes her early childhood – with no KFC! – and hurrying home from school to watch television. In one relationship, she gives the object of her affections a book of Helen Steiner Rice poetry. He gives her a Gideon Bible. Only later does she discover that they are freely available in every hotel room!

While initially denying her Xhosa heritage and aiming to be white, she eventually comes to accept and respect her identity.

Mandisa-Roeleene Haarhoff is also a talented dancer and appeared on the Jomba! Fringe Festival. Crush Hopper is directed by Ntokozo Madlala. We are certain to hear a lot more about both these young ladies! – Caroline Smart