By Lara Foot

Hexagon Theatre UKZN Pietermaritzburg
Wednesday 8th to Friday 10th May at 6.30pm
Tickets: R60 (R45 for students and seniors)
R30pp for School block bookings of 15 or more.

Bookings through Computicket (www.computicket.com or call 0861 915 8000 or visit any Checkers outlet). 

Theatre-goers have the chance to watch a classic South African play when multi-award winning theatre writer and director, Kline Smith, brings Lara Foot’s Tshepang to the Hexagon Theatre from the 8th to the 10th of May.

Inspired by the gruesome 2001 rape of a nine-month old baby, Tshepang shows what horrors take place in a community ensnared by poverty, isolation and a lack of prospects. Almost thirteen years later, South Africans are left even more dumfounded by the increasing statistics that say that every three seconds, a child is raped in this country. 

This play manages to accomplish something almost miraculous. It leads us, as an audience, to maintain a critical awareness of the complexities surrounding the violent subject matter, while keeping us engaged imaginatively and refusing to let us become emotionally distant. ‘Tshepang’ means ‘hope’, and despite the degradation and violence at the heart of play, we emerge with hope that theatre will continue to make us think critically and feel compassionately about our society in the way that Foot does so brilliantly.

Tshepang is set in a South African town where we find a silent woman, Ruth, going through her self-imposed rituals, a child’s crib strapped to her back. An observer, Simon, who has loved Ruth since childhood, tells her story. Simon, (TQ Zondi) for whom the play is a long monologue, uses simple narration to unravel the incidences that lead to the rape of baby Tshepang. Through Simon we get an insight to the people of the village and their life, wounds and all, often with delightful humour. Ruth (Pertunia Msani) speaks only one word but her presence and expression constantly counterpoints Simon’s narrative.

Smith’s direction of the play, although reflective of Foot’s great power as a writer, varies considerably from her original direction. Zondi breathes new life into a younger, more likeable Simon. Rather than rely primarily on speech, his use of physicality paints a vivid and sometimes heartbreaking picture of a community brutalized by years of neglect and poverty. Together with the haunting stage presence of Msani, Foot’s story is made flesh. Both are experienced performers whose recent works include Smith’s multi award-winning play Mob Feel and Nicholas Ellenbogen’s Horn Of Sorrow.

Every South African is encouraged to see Tshepang, particularly matric students who study the play this year. A Question and Answer session and discussion with the director and cast will take place after the show for all interested.

‘Nothing much happens here’ says Simon. But it does.

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