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Thursday, December 1, 2011


(Philisiwe Ntintili and Bongeka Mkhize)

Compelling performances from highly talented young actresses. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Last evening, I was privileged to see compelling performances from two highly talented young actresses - Bongeka Mkhize (20) and Philisiwe Ntintili (22) – as they held the audience captive with a well-written and insightful script by director Edmund Mhlongo of KCAP. Both actresses are 2011 graduates of K-CAP Learnership Programme.

Mhlongo was inspired to write the two-hander, iThemba Tattu, to send out “a punchy and powerful awareness message” against the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and related women abuse. His sister died of HIV/AIDS and he experienced at second-hand her suffering from the stigma it carried, He has dedicated the play to Gugu Dlamini who was stoned to death in Kwa Mashu in 1998 for disclosing her HIV status. She became the first victim in South Africa and has since been acknowledged the world over for her heroic stance against the pandemic.

The word “Tattu” in the title exists on three levels. “Thathu” = 3 – in this case, three letters (HIV), which is like a tattoo to the person having it because of the stigma attached.

The story focuses on Happy (Mkhize) who is prompted to respond to her niece’s complaining outburst by telling her a real story of suffering. A mother of two, Happy goes on to relate her experiences after the shock of being diagnosed HIV Positive when she took her second baby to the clinic for tests.

This is probably the most robust, poignant, humorous and memorable production dealing with the AIDS pandemic that I have seen over many years. Judging from the gasps and audible responses from those around me in the capacity audience, it seems the impact of the production reached us all.

Mkhize remains in the role of Happy, apart from one very short section when she is playing her husband Sipho, and I was impressed by her emotional maturity, focus and charm. We all came to love Happy and wanted the best for her.

The rest of the characters are handled by Ntintili who provides most of the humour and whose energy is a perfect foil for Mkhize’s emotional scenes. She plays everything from the gauche young teenager or the bossy mother-in-law to the chauvinistic, controlling and verbally abusive Sipho. Along the way there was an inquisitive neighbour, as well as a nurse and doctor.

A memorable line from the play is: “If we could all sell our experiences for what they cost us ….”

Mhlongo’s set is red and white – possibly referring to the red and white corpuscles in the blood – while actresses were both dressed in red – all making a striking statement.

This drama needs to be seen on a far wider scale. I urge you to see it – not only for the important message it makes but for the opportunity of seeing two young actresses who are definitely destined to make their mark on the theatre scene.

Ithemba Tattu runs in The Playhouse Loft until December 3 at 19h00 with an extra performance on December 3 at 14h00. Tickets R60 (R30 for students and pensioners) booked at Computicket. – Caroline Smart