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Monday, May 16, 2016


(Nqobile Mthembu, Sanele Sibiya & Samantha Govender)

Brave in that it attempts to tackle issues that we choose not to speak about. (Review by Priya Dala)

The Bee Sting is a theatre performance written and directed by stage and television personality, Samantha Govender, and attempts to address topical issues facing South Africans using the platform of comedy, drama and dance.

Govender plays the role as Deshni Naidu, a young Indian woman recently returned to her home in Chatsworth, after studying on an overseas scholarship. Deshni arrives to a household that has barely changed in the years that she has been away, and although she is endeared to this familiarity, there is something within it that deeply frustrates her.

Her parents, played by well-known veterans Lovie Ramasrai and Savy Ramsamy, are clearly overjoyed by her return but within their joy hides many secrets that Deshni cannot unlock.

Her father, Muthu a once activist of the anti-Apartheid struggle seems haunted by these secrets, and turns to bouts of clandestine alcohol. The secret bottle of “drink” hidden away in a shelf, swigged quietly away from the sharp eyes of his wife, Savy, seems to be the vehicle Govender has utilised to show Muthu’s inner demons, and it seemed a caricature well recognised in many theatre performances that depict South African Indian men.

The catalyst to the unlocking of buried family secrets comes in the form  of Rayshosa, an up and coming, charming Black man who is fast on the rise in his corporate career and is involved in a secret relationship with Deshni. Their relationship seems fraught with internal dialogue of issues that the couple discuss in their intimate moments, such as Black Economic Empowerment and the racial divides that are the underbelly of SA life. Deshni’s and Rayshosa’s conflicting arguments are capitalised on by the domestic helper, Brenda, played in good nuance by Nqobile Mthembu.

It is Mthembu’s performance that stands the play apart from many that have gone before it, in that her simple gestures and well-placed facial expressions tell so many more themes than an incessant stream of dialogue which tends to fall into advocacy style. Brenda has her eyes on Rayshosa, and colludes with Muthu, whose recovery from being in dire straits in hospital after a heart attack is left as a hanging thread. Mthembu treats a solo scene, where she breaks the fourth wall and tells us her story and this invitation into the mind of a domestic worker is one not often seen, but explores many themes, the most poignant being her desire for a better life than her “maid mother.”

The Bee Sting is brave in that it attempts to tackle issues that we choose not to speak about. Govender has written a tale that we want to talk about, but somehow this discussion can barely happen as we get so drowned in the archetypal portrayals of Indian people – a father who can only talk when he takes to alcohol, the distinctive parody of an Indian mother who wrings her hands, exaggerates her gestures and slaps her forehead. Conflict and inner pain can be conveyed in so many other ways – lest we always stick to this oft-used script of the South African Indian story.

I do enjoy comedy. Life is not always played back to us in solemnity. But when you do get a platform to talk of serious things, comedy must be treated with respect and not become an emblematic train that will eventually derail. Kudos to Govender for bringing issues forward and for drawing on the much-needed principles of Mandela and Sai Baba. The Bee Sting is an attempt in the drive not only to change our minds on large issues, but we need to change the way we show them.

The Bee Sting played at Suncoast Supernova on May 6 and 7, 2016. – Priya Dala