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Sunday, May 19, 2019


This is a thought-provoking work which provides great entertainment while reminding us of the stranglehold of the apartheid era. (Review by Caroline Smart)

An excellent cast, dazzling footwork and great band made up the high energy production of Gone Native which ran at the Playhouse for a few days this week.

The show, which is mainly in isiZulu, is written and directed by award-winning actor and playwright, Makhaola Ndebele. With music composed by Hugh Masekela, Gone Native was first presented by Soweto Theatre in August 2017.

Set in 1950’s apartheid South Africa, this Johannesburg production tells of Regina Brooks, a young white woman who speaks perfect isiZulu and Sisuthu and her love for a black police sergeant (Richard Khumalo). They have a baby together. Having to hide the baby from the police and the Boers, she moves into his house in Orlando, Soweto. Before long, the news is all over the township, eventually reaching Khumalo’s other wife, Maria, and sparks fly.

Maria reports her husband’s indiscretion to the police who arrest the pair (plus baby!) and then follows the court case in which they are charged under the Immorality Act of the time. There is much amusement and audience reaction in the court scene as the interpreter deliberately wrongly interprets Regina’s answers. Regina appeals to be reclassified as a coloured woman but eventually the charges are set aside because the court can’t conclusively prove that Regina is a non-European.

Regina Brooks is still alive and in her 80s. She has numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

The show starts off on a delightful note. There are three boxes placed apart representing stepping stones in a river which a group of children negotiate to get to their playing place. Amid their teasing and arguments, they notice a young white girl hovering on the stones, obviously dying to join in. To their amazement, this “umlungu” speaks their language perfectly and she soon becomes part of the play group.

The seven-member cast then carry the story as it moves on through time, interspersed with song and some great Marabi and Kwela dancing. Most of the actors take various roles.

Playing Regina Brooks is Maritjie Bothma who speaks fluent Zulu herself. She gives a totally believable performance of this controversial figure with calm determination.

Kgomotso "Momo" Matsunyane plays Maria along with other characters, all of which she imbues with strong energy and passion. Soyiso Ndaba gives the role of Richard Khumalo the required egotism and sexuality. Kanyi Lukanyiso Nokwe impresses as the final judge and she also proves her expertise on the makhweyana (Zulu bow instrument).

Sibusiso Shozi gives a powerful and ardent rendition of the Priest who is determined to baptise Regina’s baby as it has done no wrong in the eyes of the Lord. Other good performances come from Ayanda Hlangothi as the Judge and Isana Maseko as the Magistrate.

The cast have excellent backing in the four-piece band comprising Musical Director Johan Mthethwa on piano; Ntokozo Zungu (lead guitar); Fana Abednigo Zulu (bass guitar), and Godfrey Mgcina (percussion).

This is a thought-provoking work which provides great entertainment while reminding us of the stranglehold of the apartheid era. – Caroline Smart