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WRITER/PERFORMER/DIRECTOR: Phillip Dikotla
VENUE: Soweto Theatre
Until: April 16
A star is born.
He has already been rewarded with the recent Cape Town Fleur du Cap theatre award as Best Solo performer, but there’s much more than that.
Dikotla takes us into a world many of us have read about, but few know. Not only does he take us there, he introduces us to the people behind the horror that sometimes hits the headlines that don’t get to the heart of those who are most affected.
Dikotla tells the story of Skierlik, a tiny community of shacks just outside Swartruggens in the North West, which captured the world’s attention because of a young white man who arrived one day and randomly killed four people.
This is the story of Thomas, the husband of Anna and their baby daughter Elizabeth, both of whom died that day. Because he couldn’t deal with Skierlik and the pain of his terrible loss, he left soon after the funerals of the two people he loved most in the world and travelled across the country to cities he had never heard of.
Walking and hitching rides, he lands up on a Joburg street corner selling newspapers that tell the stories he knows all too well. This though is a story of his return, of his confronting the harsh reality of his life, of his shattered soul, of the officials shouting about change for a community who had stopped dreaming and were simply getting on with their lives – until the shooting when people died.
It is the stark simplicity of the story, the cutting to the bone, the exposure of change for all the wrong reasons and the lives of the people who remained ignored even in the tragedy. “I was standing at the back,” he reveals about the funeral where he couldn’t get close enough to throw soil on the caskets of his beloved wife and baby. They even stole these last private moments from him.
The telling is heart-wrenching as it unhinges life as many of us know it as we listen to the intimate story of the little man who attempts to find his voice at a time when few are listening.
On a Sunday afternoon in Soweto as the sounds of shots were ricocheting like thunder claps in a silent theatre, few were there to witness this excruciating yet revealing South African tale and yet, those who witnessed this extraordinary story performed so majestically by a young artist who is determined to tell his stories, left with their view shifted about everything around them.
That’s what this kind of authentic theatre can do and why we should pay attention.