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Thursday, September 27, 2012


(Review of the production at the 2012 Witness Hilton Art Festival by Margaret von Klemperer, courtesy of The Witness)

Mike van Graan’s Brothers in Blood, directed by Greg Homann, is quite simply serious theatre at the top of its game. Superbly acted – of which more later – in just over an hour it leads the audience to confront prejudice and their own clichĂ©d pre-conceptions. But it leads them, not forces them.

On a stark and effective set five actors tell a story of our times and our country. The action takes place in Cape Town where an explosive mix of Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities are all trying to come to terms with a changing society, violence, xenophobia, gangs and drugs.

Representatives of the three religions have all suffered: one of the Muslims is Fadiel Suleiman, a Somali exile who has been driven out of his home country only to meet with hatred in South Africa; Muslim school principal Abubaker Abrahams has lost his wife and a grandchild to gang violence and is desperate to protect his youngest daughter Leila but cannot lead her life for her or prevent her from making her own mistakes; Jewish doctor Brian Cohen’s five year-old son has been terrorised by a Pagad march and his innate humanity has been compromised and the fundamentalist Reverend Lionel Fredericks has lost a son to drugs and a daughter who has rejected his faith and married a Muslim. Their stories become intertwined and ultimately they are forced to face their bleak pasts and uncertain futures.

It has been a long time since David Dennis, who plays Abrahams, has been seen on KZN stages, and this is a reminder of how much we have missed. Not a gesture is wasted, and not a word lost as he commands the stage, making his character utterly believable and deeply moving. It is a performance of pure class. Kurt Egelhof as Pastor Fredericks runs him a close second, and Aimee Valentine, Harrison Makubalo and Conrad Kemp all perform excellently in this stagey, clever work.

The play avoids sentimentality or easy, feel-good solutions, but the audience still emerges with a sense of hope, for South Africa and, importantly, for South African theatre. - Margaret von Klemperer