Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
WORST OF BOTH WORLDS. Written and directed by Bulelani Mabutyana, with Lubabalo Nontwana and Thando Suselo. At The Baxter Theatre until Saturday at 7pm. TERRI DUNBAR-CURRAN reviews.
HUMAN trafficking. We all know it happens, but very few of us under-stand the trauma that women and children are subjected to when they are torn away from their homes and family, and forced into slavery.
Bulelani Mabutyana’s Worst of Both Worlds, the winner of this year’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival, zooms in on the ordeal of a girl who is abducted at the age of six and forced into a life of prostitution.
Presented under the banner of the Uthando Lwe Kamvalethu Arts Organisation, it tells her story and highlights her anguish and her fight for control.
What makes this production even more remarkable is that the girl’s story is told by two men, Thando Suselo and Lubabalo Nontwana, who flit between characters, taking turns as Pinky at various ages, her captors and her family.
The stage is bare save for one chair and a table, and wearing red, the duo rely on mime, dialogue and physical theatre to portray the heart-breaking tale. While it uses a combination of English and Xhosa, the play is still fairly easy for English-speaking audiences to follow.
Pinky is lured from the safety of her home in Khayelitsha and is held captive in a foreign land, forced to use her body to gratify hundreds of men.
Desperate for her mother and with no one but a fellow slave for company, she dreams of returning home.
It’s not a happy story. It’s a candid and uncomfortable examination of the decay lurking within society.
Even if Pinky manages to find her way home, what guarantee is there that she will find the happiness she deserves?
Suselo and Nontwana slip comfortably from one character to the next, their voices and mannerisms changing dramatically from the shy twisting and shuffling of a small child and the desperation of her searching parents, to the looming roaring of a venomous trafficker.
The rapid-fire police interrogation of two suspects was particularly well done, as the pair rotated and slammed the table violently down with each transformation.
Worst of Both Worlds tackles a heavy subject bravely and with honesty. It is a plea for people to sit up and take notice.
“Traffickers are like vultures,” they recite in haunting unison.
“They take the children from in front of their mothers’ eyes.”
Emotions run high throughout the 55-minute piece as the audience smiles at Pinky’s childish innocence as she sings her favourite song and then flinch as she is abducted. Mabutyana has incorporated symbolic imagery to deal with some of the more explicit events, the repeated rape scenes are depicted as aggressive arm wrestling across a table, leaving the young girl sobbing and the perpetrator growling and gasping.
Potent and effective as the images are, they seemed to be lost on a large percentage of the audience who, appallingly, laughed.
It was unclear if the laughter was as a result of discomfort, shock, or simply because they found it funny. Either way, it is a shocking indictment on our society that people found any humour in the abuse of a young woman.
If anything, it drove home the desperate need for more theatre of this kind and more public debate addressing the seriousness of such violence.
The reaction was not only insulting to the actors and team involved in the production, but even more so to every person who has ever suffered such degradation.
The lack of compassion shown by some of the audience was nothing short of disgusting.
However, it is encouraging that local theatre makers are taking brave steps to shed light on such issues, and it is heartening that their efforts are being recognised and applauded in forums like the Zabalaza Theatre Festival.
Perhaps in time their messages will begin to impact on those who most need to hear them.
The two-hander was also nominated in the categories for Best Performance by an Actor (Nontwana and Suselo), Best Director and Best Script (Mabutyana), and Best Ensemble at this year’s Zabalaza Theatre Festival.
l Tickets are R60. To book, call Computicket at 0861 915 8000. For discounted block or schools bookings, charities or fundraisers, call Sharon at 021 680 3962. For more information, see www.baxter.co.za