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Friday, August 2, 2013


(Thembi Mtshali Jones in performance. Pic by Eric Miller)

Exquisite powerhouse performance and dynamic professionalism. (Review by Keith Millar)

As a theatre lover, it is always a very special occasion when you get to see a work which could be regarded as exceptional.

Mother to Mother starring Thembi Mtshali Jones, which is currently running in the Playhouse Loft as part of the Playhouse Company’s 17th annual South African Woman’s Arts Festival, is just such a production. I was profoundly moved by the poignant narrative, absorbed by Mtshali Jones’s exquisite performance and thrilled at the dynamic professionalism of the entire production.

Mother to Mother is a one-woman monologue which is based on a tragic events which took place in Gugulethu in 1993 during the violent times which marred South Africa’s struggle to achieve democracy and freedom from oppression. Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar and social activist, was murdered by a rioting mob when she gave some friends a lift home to the township.

The play is in the form of a personal testimony by the mother of one of the murderers as she tries to come to terms with her son’s actions. Speaking indirectly to Amy Biehl’s mother, she seeks to find redemption and understanding of the circumstances which led to the appalling act. It takes a concerned look at the effects of violence and anger in a divided society, and explores the question of where the responsibility for this violence lies.

Mtshali Jones delivers a powerhouse performance which is subtle and perfectly nuanced. She expertly portrays all the many emotions experienced by mothers, particularly during such turbulent and difficult times. She re-arranges the imaginative set and props to create different scenes as the story progresses, never once missing a beat in her narrative. It is a performance to marvel at, and admire.

Mother to Mother was adapted for the stage by Dr Sidewe Magona in collaboration with director Janice Honeyman, from her book of the same title. It employs colourful and descriptive prose which has a distinctive South African feel and quality about it.

This is considerably enhanced by the clever use of pictures projected on a big screen, and outstanding sound effects, which depict scenes such as township life, apartheid police raids and, most poignantly, images of Amy Beihl. Imaginative lighting design also enhances the atmosphere of the work.

While the play serves as a graphic and disturbing record of a tragic period in South Africa’s history, it also offers a pertinent message to our violent and crime-ridden society of today.

Mother to Mother is an outstanding production and is completely homegrown. It should be a must for all theatre lovers.

There is one more performances tomorrow night (August 3) in the Loft Theatre at the Playhouse. Bookings can be made via the Playhouse website, or the Playhouse box office on 031 369 9549 / 031 369 9596. Alternatively book at Computicket on 0861 915 8000 or online at – Keith Millar