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Thursday, October 25, 2012


Thabiso Radebe (pictured) gives excellent performance as a young gay man looking for answers. (Review by Caroline Smart)

After performances earlier this year at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and KZNSA art galleries, Thabiso Radebe now appears in a run of his High Heels … with Balls at the Catalina Theatre, handling the challenges of this venue with its wide stage and infernal extractor fan noise.

He comes out a champion – his clear articulation and projection means we hear every nuance of his script and he uses the stage well. The stage is a mess – and it’s supposed to be – there are clothes strewn all over the place. This is a measure of the life of the leading character Asiphe Xaba. He doesn’t know who he is, trying to come to terms with being a homosexual in a homophobic society. He’s looking for answers and doesn’t know who to turn to. He craves maternal guidance but his mother is dead, a horrendous scene he cannot erase from his memory.

The audience moves into the theatre to the background of a recorded poem written by Nomandla Mchunu dealing with the complications of love.

As the show starts, Asiphe (Radebe) is curled up on the sofa in a scarlet figure-hugging tube dress and wearing red high heels. Clutching a long rope and sensually licking a lollipop, he takes us into his world. On either side of him stand the motionless figures of Mchunu who represents his mother and Thuso Mathe, who says nothing but draws on a whiteboard indicating that the clock is ticking. The mother launches into a diatribe against her son, saying that the ancestors must be angry to have cursed her with a homosexual son.

As each disturbing memory of his life goes by – sexual abuse by his father, the suicide by hanging of his mother and early encounters as a prostitute – he is galvanised into a compulsive “clean up”, rushing around and picking up items of clothing and shoving them into an already overloaded basket. My admiration knows no bounds for his frenetic activity in those stiletto heels, not once tripping on the minefield of things to fall over!

A DUT graduate, Radebe cuts an impressive figure in female clothing and he gains the audience’s sympathy in numerous tender moments. He is to be commended for his well-scripted and well-directed production. High Heels with Balls is hard-hitting and there are simulated scenes of rape and sexual activity made all the more dramatic by vocal effects from Mchunu and Mathe.

High Heels with Balls was prompted by Radebe’s experiences as a student where his “straight” colleagues would taunt and insult him and his gay friends. The play is a mix of Zulu and English.

While there is focus on sexual violence and victimisation, High Heels with Balls carries a strong message about tolerance, acceptance and human rights. Above all, it reminds us of the need to understand one another, whatever our differences. It is worth seeing.

Created and directed by Thabiso Radebe and presented by Catalina Unlimited, High Heels with Balls runs until November 4 at 19h00 at Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf. Tickets R60 booked through Catalina Box Office on 031 305 6889 or visit – Caroline Smart