A case of art mirroring life

Movies & Theatre

Identical twins Musawenkosi and Bongumusa Shabalala take to the stage as twin brothers Thabo and Thabani in the moving and poetic stage production Izipopolo. The play follows the brothers’ journey from the moment they meet in their mother’s womb, through to their difficult adolescence and coming-of-age years in KwaMashu, Durban.

Multi-award winning director Neil Coppen says the production explores what happens when one of the brothers decides to forge an identity separate from the other.

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Identical twins explore if it's possible to live separate lives.Identical twins Musawenkosi and Bongumusa Shabalala play Thabo and Thabani in Izipopolo.

“To me this is a timeless story about love, brotherhood and friendship. It’s also a story about identity or what it means to share an identity so intimately with another. When you think about it, twins are the perfect solution to the life-long quest of finding your other half.

“The knowledge and connection they share with one another is profound and fostered over a lifetime of operating and functioning as a single unit,” he said.

He continued: “I wanted to understand what are the advantages to such a deep connection and at the same time, what are the complexities and difficulties that come with being born with a mirror image of yourself.

“The dramatic question posed in our play is what happens when someone (or something) comes between this connection. “Is it possible for a twin to ever feel like an individual? Can twins ever feel complete existing apart from one another or are their destinies and trajectories irrevocably entwined,” said Coppen.

The play offers a fascinating glimpse into these questions, but most of all it explores the unshakable and complex bond that exists between brothers.

Coppen said the production came to life when he was approached by the Shabalala brothers. He was fascinated to explore the world of twins and tremendously excited by the idea that the performers communicating the story would not only be twins themselves but incredibly gifted actors.

“While creating the story concept and script the Shabalala twins and I worked closely together, drawing on their real-life experiences growing up in KwaZulu-Natal as identical twins, while also researching the many varied twin mythologies that exist on the African continent and, more specifically, within Zulu culture. “After several months of research we wove together the many tales, histories and mythologies we had gathered and turned the material into the play Izipopolo,” he said.

Coppen added that he hoped the play would make audiences reflect on their own relationships with their siblings and other family members, saying that if the play prompted siblings to call each other up and say: “I love you”, then he would have succeeded in his task.

Coppen said: “Theatre brings our stories to life with an urgency, immediacy and vibrancy that no other medium can match. It truly is an electric exchange between storyteller and audience. “A play like this is entirely dependent on this sort of sharing and exchange. The response and energy of an audience breathes life into our story and ultimately brings it leaping to life.”

● Izipopolo runs from Friday to Sunday at The Playhouse Loft Theatre. Booking at Computicket or the box office at 031 369 9540/9596 for R65.
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