national Arts Festival Banner

Saturday, May 16, 2015


(Susan Danford & John Kani as Anna and Robert. Pic by Val Adamson)

Beautifully scripted with excellent performances, this is not to be missed! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Life is full of contrasts. Earlier in the week, I was swept away by youthful exuberance at two events and, last night, I moved into a more mature and highly focused channel with John Kani’s beautifully-scripted play, Missing.

What a compelling and well-presented production it is. Directed by Janice Honeyman with lighting design by Mannie Manim, it forms part of the Playhouse Company’s New Stages season.

Missing is John Kani’s first full-length play since his Nothing but the Truth in 2002. He takes the main role of Robert Khalipa in a thought-provoking story about an exiled comrade living in Stockholm. He is married to Anna Ohlson, a highly successful businesswoman (Susan Danford with perfect Swedish accent) and they have a charming and outspoken daughter Ayanda (Buhle Ngaba) who is a medical student.

The play opens as the family returns home from an ANC diplomatic function with Anna regaling Ayanda how she was expected to behave in a subservient manner like a traditional African wife. Robert enters and informs them that Peter Shabalala (Apollo Ntshoko) will be joining them. They go way back to the time when Peter was Robert's assistant in the ANC office and there are some highly amusing moments as they recall the past and quiz each other on quotations by struggle heroes.

Missing has many salient points to make and it resounds on several levels as the family takes a trip to South Africa and plunges headlong into an emotionally-charged visit that seriously threatens to split them apart.

For Robert, Stockholm is so clean and safe, it makes him sick. Africa is home and now that he has finally returned, he is determined to stay. After 30 years in exile, despairing at having been passed over for a position in South Africa’s new government (now six years into democracy), he finally gets a chance to connect with the President. This meeting reveals a devastating act of betrayal from one of his closest associates.

From Anna’s point of view, her well-ordered and comfortable existence is abruptly turned upside down. She is an extremely rich woman, having inherited the family business. Her home life is warm and loving but things change drastically when they come to South Africa and her husband reconnects with his roots, no longer treating her as an equal.

And where does Ayanda fit? She proudly proclaims that she is African … but her home is in Stockholm and she is engaged to a Swedish man. However, certain members of his family have issues with the fact that her father is black.

Now take Peter. All his life he has played a secondary role – deputy this, deputy that – until he found a way to reach a top position and grabbed it, thinking that an apology afterwards would make it alright. One of the most telling moments is when Robert asks him to repeat the oath he made when he became a Minister. Perhaps this oath is something a number of politicians should revisit!

Totally believable as a loving couple, Kani and Danford put in excellent performances, especially when things disintegrate and they are reduced to a blazing fight. They have great support from a captivating Ngaba and Ntshoko, who gives his role its appropriate condescending arrogance. The play is full of humour and there are some very significant lines. Do try to catch this production – there are only two more performances.

Missing runs tonight and tomorrow night (May 16 and 17) at 19h00 in the Playhouse Drama. Booking is through Computicket. For specials and block booking discounts call 031 369 9596 / 031 369 9540 / 031 369 9456. There is a PG age restriction. – Caroline Smart