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Saturday, July 6, 2013


Umsindo Theatre Projects holds its head up high with production on the Arena Programme. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Written by Neil Coppen and directed by the well-known Durban identical twins Musawenkosi and Bongumusa Shabalala, Secrets from the Drawer was presented on the Arena programme of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown by the Durban-based Umsindo Theatre Projects (UTP).

Umsindo Theatre Productions won the 2011 Standard Bank Encore Ovation Award for To Be Like This Rock. In preparation for this production, the group was mentored by Neil Coppen and the Twist Theatre Development Project.

The play is set at a run-down mortuary which is presided over by Mkhulu, a mortician who has spent most of his adult life carefully preparing the bodies of the dead. Four bodies come in one night and, as he sets about the cleansing process with dignity and respect, he becomes involved in the violent tales of their deaths. Gently, he calms each one and puts them back to sleep.

Adding to his concerns is the constant appearance of the spirit of his late father who urges him to get out among the living and move into another kind of job.

His assistant is having wife problems and unburdens them on Mkhulu before taking things into his own hands, to disastrous results.

Good performances all round in a play which is headed by Thandanani Qwabe as the mortician, Thobani Mbhele as his father and Wiseman Mncube as his volatile assistant. Sphindile Myeni provides much pathos as the mother of the young schoolgirl, Phumzile, played by Nomvuselelo Myeza.

Thamsanqa Silindana is the corrupt politician who gets his comeuppance from the souls of the departed. Xolisile Khumalo plays the fourth body whose identity is only revealed in the last stages in a very emotional scene.

Despite the morbid nature of the play, there is much gentle humour and amusing dialogue.

The production held my interest throughout despite issues that could have been better explored. I look forward to seeing it when it is able to be performed with a proper set and not one that is subject to the restrictions and costs of transportation, as are most productions that appear on festivals out of their hometowns.

Secrets from the Drawer held its head up high for Umsindo Theatre Projects (UTP) as a viable performance company and if they present something at next year’s Festival, it is bound to be worth watching. – Caroline Smart