national Arts Festival Banner

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


(Liesl Coppin & Ntando Mncube. Pic: Val Adamson)

Contortions of conversations and confrontations excellently handled by the two member cast. (Review by Caroline Smart)

It was an interesting experience last evening to attend a drama in the Durban University of Technology’s Arthur Smith Hall on the DUT City Campus. I can’t remember when I last saw a theatre work in this comfortable auditorium. The presentation is made all the more auspicious as DUT is hosting the first South African professional premiere of Lewis Nkosi’s arguably most famous work for the stage, the riveting two-hander, The Black Psychiatrist.

Bryan Hiles’s set design grabs your attention from the moment you walk in. The waving crinkly mirror-effect on the high walls bordered by cell-like windows eventually serves to “mirror” the contortions of the conversations and confrontations that lie ahead. Congratulations to lighting designer Mthandazo Mofokeng for what must have been a challenging technical achievement!

In director Debbie Lutge’s pre-publicity, she describes The Black Psychiatrist as “a racy play that haunts, that encases ANC core values, that features politics but embraces Ubuntu, a play for high school and college learners, a play by a South African literary giant. It is akin to taking the history of the struggle and the shifting balance of power and synergizing these values within socio-culturally constructed roles that embrace race and gender all within a framework with surprising twists and turns that positions the psycho analytical gaze both without and within.”

She has chosen a strong cast – both of them DUT graduates - to handle the excellent and multi-layered script with its many twists and turns.

The setting is a psychiatrist’s office in England. Dr Dan Kerry is calmly working at his desk when the door is flung open and in strides Mrs Gloria Gresham. All long legs, high heels, skin-tight and ultra-short flaming red dress, she is flaunting desire personified. She proceeds to blow his calm life apart as she alternatively hurls insults, snaps at him for not remembering her or plays for his sympathy - all the while draping herself seductively across his desk or flagrantly flaunting herself sexually on his respectable couch.

Very fine performances come from Liesl Coppin and Ntando Mncube. However, while Coppin’s articulation is impeccable, Mncube often gets swept up with dramatic emotion and we lose the sense of valuable text.

The production has its own soundscape with an original musical composition and arrangement by DUT Drama and Production Studies Vocal Coach and Instrumentalist Madlen Tzankova and Richardt Wissink.

An acclaimed South African writer, academic and literary critic, Lewis Nkosi is best known among the younger generation for his school set book Mating Birds. He grew up in Chesterville in Durban and first studied at ML Sultan. His first job was as a reporter for Ilanga lase Natal. His works were banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, and he faced severe restrictions as a writer. He received a Neiman scholarship from Harvard University in the US to pursue his studies. He died in September, 2010. The Durban University of Technology conferred a posthumous honorary Doctor of Technology Degree in Arts and Design on him in recognition of his significant contributions as a prolific and profound South African writer and essayist last year.

There is one more performance of The Black Psychiatrist tonight (April 30) at 19h00 at the Arthur Smith Hall, DUT City Campus, courtesy of DALRO. The play runs for an hour Tickets R35 booked via or on 031 373 2532. – Caroline Smart