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Saturday, May 13, 2017


(Musawenkosi & Bongomusa Shabalala)

Beautifully written and directed with excellent performances. (Review by Caroline Smart)

If you want to see a brilliant piece of theatre, don't miss Izipopolo which forms part of the Playhouse New Stages and runs until tomorrow (May 14) with performances in The Loft at 14h00 and 19h30. It is beautifully written and directed with excellent performances from identical twins Musawenkosi and Bongomusa Shabalala!

I have to admit that if I see the twins standing next to each other, I am able to tell them apart but if I meet them individually, I am helpless to know which is which. Thankfully, they have their names tattooed on their arms, which are uncovered in this show, so identification is possible.

Not that one is better or less talented than the other – this is a marvellous two-hander in which their combined considerable talents have been utilised to the full by director Neil Coppen. The play is a collaborative piece from the three of them and deals with twin relationships. Musawenkosi and Bongomusa play numerous characters from young children to old men – all with fine accuracy and credibility.

The staging is superb with props carefully placed at the opening. There are also two identical outfits lying on the floor as if the wearers just lay down and slipped out of their vests, jeans and shoes.

Alongside Zulu drums, sticks and spears which are used in some dramatic fight scenes, there are suitcases that become doors, candles that become stars and calabashes which are hilariously used later to represent the pendulous breasts of rural women washing in the river. Two ropes hang from the flies which become umbilical cords in a beautiful scene depicting the twins in the womb.

As the play opens, the two men come in and put on their clothes, their movements and speech mirroring each other perfectly. They move to meet with hands touching as if they are looking at themselves in a mirror. Then one breaks away, explaining that he has to go and so follows the focus on their relationship where the one is devastated at the break from the other and can’t imagine a world without him.

They think each other’s thoughts, dream the same dreams, help each other at school, take punishment for the other … and both love the same girl.

As the play progresses, we meet their grandfather who uses binoculars to show the youngsters special stars in the heavens. “Izipopolo” is the Zulu name for binoculars and when the children fight over possession of them, the old man dubs the twins Izi and Popolo and explains that they should share the binoculars, looking through two lenses to see the world as one.

Two small bundles represent the twins and this is when we learn about ancient cultural beliefs where twins were considered a curse and one must be killed at birth. The mother is distraught but the father insists that if she doesn’t do it, he will. So she runs away to a neighbouring village and leaves the baby on the doorstep of a woman she knows longs to have children.

Another focus on culture is that if a twin dies, the other must lie in his grave and then rise and walk away without looking back otherwise the spirit of the departed is forever locked to the living. Elements of this belief colour the modern-day relationship of the two men.

I am afraid that I am not as conversant with the Zulu language as I would like to be. Even though the play is mainly in English, I lost a lot of what was obviously very funny or clever dialogue judging from the audience’s laughter or gasps of admiration.

This production is bound to travel – don’t miss it!

Izipopolo has three more performances in The Playhouse Loft Theatre: tonight (May 13) at 19h30 and two tomorrow (May 14) at 14h00 and 19h30. Tickets R65 booked through Computicket or the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540/9596. Discounted parking is available at the Royal Hotel parkade or at the Albany Grove parkade. – Caroline Smart