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Friday, October 14, 2011


(Pic by Val Adamson: Thandanani Qwabe, Philani Muthwa, Sifanelesibonge Mtshali and Thobile Mwelase)

See this Durban University of Technology production if you can. (Review by Adi Paxton)

From the opening counterpoint of melodic song, and the eruption of the soldiers in the first dance sequence, Dawn of the Cockroach is compelling. DUT drama lecturer Thomas Mpoeleng has crafted a hard-hitting production. The 1994 Rwandan genocide is realised through clear characterisation and a focused student ensemble. Well done. The only jarring note for me was the laughter of the student audience during some emotively charged moments.

Music and song effectively underscore chilling sequences throughout the production. A tight group of singers featuring soloist Ngobile Ncobo, provided beautiful simple harmonies that drew appreciative gasps from the audience. The soundtrack (Tevin Kunene) and lighting (Luke O’Gorman) ably supported the action. Fight sequences and choreography (Mdu Mtshali) were extremely effective.

A balance between violence and humanity was seen in the characters. The Colonel, played by Thabiso “Sbani” Radebe, could have been caricatured as a complete monster. Instead, through his back story and final actions, we gain some insight.

In developing even minor characters to elicit sympathy or understanding, Mpoeleng allowed his cast many moments to shine. That ‘’we all have choices’’ which can have dreadful consequences, was ably demonstrated through individual dilemmas and performances: The journalist George (a credible, Sipheosenkosi Myeni); the schoolboy Phillip (a sensitive, Philani Muthwa) and soldier ‘Peter’ (Tevin Kunene) were well-rendered. The humiliation of the schoolboy and girl (Thobeka Ntanzi) was well-handled as was the subject of rape as a weapon in war.

Abuse of authority, the media and lack of ethics were explored through relationships. The burden placed on children by the malicious actions of adults is seen through Pinky Qwabe’s heartrending Pearl and sister Sara (Mayenziwe Zuma). Even minor characters were clearly developed. Mrs Katumba (Mbali Sithole) and the Captain (Wiseman Mncube) left us grasping for explanations. Ineffectiveness of the International Red Cross and local churches to protect or aid victims was demonstrated through the nurse (Teakshania Singh) and Reverend (Aphiwe Namba).

As a ‘stupid’ soldier, Charles Zulu provided some of the comic relief in contrast to the darkness of the subject. Dance, song and comedy lightened the show and provided a dramatic balance. The play provides a human face to victims and perpetrators in the terrible genocide. When the final images are projected, their stories have been told.

Congratulations are due to all involved for a really professional production. I only failed to clearly hear one small comment in the production.

Thomas said he chose to write and direct the play about Rwanda as a response to Xenophobia in our country. He wanted audiences to see the horrors that many of the foreigners in South Africa have come from in order to better understand them. I believe he succeeded.

Dawn of the Cockroach runs until October 15 at 19h00 at DUT’s Courtyard Theatre. Tickets R15 booked through Lebohang Sibisi on 031 373 2194. - Adi Paxton