national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, May 9, 2015


(Atandwa Kani & Nat Ramabulana. Pic by Val Adamson)

Splendid performances in a riveting, highly amusing, acutely sensitive and memorable production. (Review by Caroline Smart)

You enter the Playhouse Loft to be greeted by the sight of Matthew Macfarlane quietly playing his guitar and sitting alone on a stage which is bare apart from two book flats to mask exits and entrances.

The lack of props and set – or costumes (the performers remain simply dressed in T-shirt and slacks throughout) - becomes barely noticeable as Atandwa Kani and Nat Ramabulana launch into Hayani which forms part of the Playhouse Company’s current season of New Stages.

Written by Kani, Ramabulana and Warren Nebe, Hayani charts the journey of two men from childhood to adulthood. At the same time, it moves through recent South African history, making this a thought-provoking as well as an excellent educational piece.

The play starts off as Atandwa and Nat separately recount their first childhood memories of going back to their respective family homes. (Hayani means “home‟ in Venda)

The one travels to Port Elizabeth in a comfortable Mercedes with his family and siblings and the other is crushed into a taxi with his mother on the way to Limpopo. I can boast that I have had the privilege of having Ramabulana sit on my lap (not once but twice) when he came into the audience to act out the journey!

Between them, they play a mind-boggling myriad of characters – male and female – from naive and energetic children to frustrated parents, drunkards to dope artists, a bereaved young woman or a nose-rubbing taxi queue marshal as well as an eye-twitching old man or a dignified old lady from Parkhurst.

They run through a gamut of emotions, they switch languages and their accents range from township to upper class English.

 Each new role is a perfect cameo in itself. You’ll laugh at some of the delicious nonsense, you’ll cry at beautifully-handled sensitive scenes and be impressed by the pair’s dancing abilities. They both give memorable performances in this compelling production that is riveting, highly amusing and acutely sensitive. All this, supported by Macfarlane’s impressive on-stage soundscape which reflects the various scenes and moods.

Apart from the distinctive Kani smile, close your eyes and Atandwa is definitely his father’s son with very similar vocal patterns. You can see John Kani in Missing which comes to the Playhouse Drama next week.

Hayani runs in the Playhouse Loft for only two more performances – Saturday (May 9)  at 19h30 and Sunday (May 10) at 15h00. Booking is at Computicket. Don’t miss it! – Caroline Smart