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Monday, September 25, 2017


(The cast of the production)

The 1997 South African theatre classic, originally created by Junction Avenue and originally directed by Malcolm Purkey, Love, Crime and Johannesburg, is getting a 20 year face-lift and being re-staged for a 2017 KZN audience.

As UKZN’s Drama and Performance Studies showcase 2017 productions, Love, Crime and Johannesburg features the senior students of the programme in a finely-crafted theatre adventure directed by Drama lecturer and young theatre maker, Kamini Govender. Known for her own stand-up comedy and her finely-tuned and socially edgy performances, Govender was drawn to Love, Crime and Johannesburg because, as she says, “it still speaks to us today! I love the witty and humorous way in which the play tackles really serious issues and how it reminds us to laugh at the painful irony of the political state of our nation”.

Govender has worked with a cast of 24 young actors and dancers in a revised/re-visited version of the play that includes song, dance and slam poetry interwoven into the original story. A simple set reflects the wealth and poverty that coexists in the multifaceted city of Johannesburg - a city that is a microcosm and a poetic symbol for all our disappointments, delusions and dreams.

Govender’s approach to directing the play has been influenced by Sigh the Beloved Country’s author, Bongani Madondo, who writes, “South Africa is exhausting. What we never say enough, though, is that South Africa is also enchanting, complex, beautiful, confident, unsure, insecure, and spirit-roiling. It is both a magical and crippling country”. Govender adds, “I hope my version of Love, Crime and Johannesburg will reflect this”.

The play, famously takes on Bertolt Brecht’s ironic conundrum that states, “Why bother to rob a bank, when you can own a bank?” Central to Love, Crime and Johannesburg is the character of Jimmy ‘Long Legs’ Mangane, a people’s poet involved in the struggle and who is now accused of robbing a bank. He passionately asserts his innocence, claiming to work for the "secret secret service." Lewis, his old friend and comrade from the struggle, now owns a bank. How did this happen? The man of the struggle is now a man of accounts. Added to the mix is an old-style gangster, two girlfriends, a Jewish mother and a very unusual Chief of Police.

For Govender, the play's protagonist Jimmy ‘Longlegs’ Mangane represents not just a broken individual but a corrupted political ideology. She says: “at a time of political upheaval and social scepticism, contemporary South Africa dances on the edge of its own revolution or dissolution – with blatant corruption, increasing violence and frustration dominating our news – we have curled ourselves into a society of exhausted question marks. Set in Johannesburg, this play explores the crossing between the citizens and the state; contrasting the corporate crime, the unspeakable cruelties toward the vulnerable and the – sometimes - quiet kindnesses shown toward each other in the city”.

The play originally won the 2000 Vita Award for best script of a new South African play.

Love, Crime and Johannesburg runs at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre from September 27 to 30 at 19h00 with a matinee on September 30 and October 1 at 15h00. Tickets R50 (R20 scholars and students) can be bought on the night via the Box Office from one hour before the show begins.