Last Cow Standing
DIRECTOR: Lihle Dhlomo
CAST: Menzi Mkhwane
WRITER and actor Menzi Mkhwane’s Last Cow Standing opened last Thursday and, as it turns out, the play comes at a perfect time as South Africa commemorates its youth on June 16.
Last Cow Standing is a fantasy piece that tells the story of a kingdom in turmoil. A plague is killing its cows and, on the advice of his council, the king decides that a mass sacrifice of all the cows that are left should take place, in order to cleanse the kingdom of this curse.
However, an old woman believes that this would achieve the opposite and result in the end of the kingdom as they know it. Too ill to make the journey, she charges her grandson to complete her mission: deliver her warning to the king.
And so begins this young boy’s journey, one laden with challenges. These mainly concern adults/ elders who are determined to dismiss the youngster whom they regard as a mischievous little boy trying to stir trouble. Will he over-come the fear of facing up to these elders? Will he get to see the king?
The success of Mkhwane’s writing lies in taking a pertinent topic and addressing it in a manner that is not too socio-politically intense, yet istill gets the message across.
Here is a land where the people are downtrodden by poverty and what seems like more doom and gloom to come.
In the midst of this, decisions are made by the authorities that are not necessarily in the people’s best interest. With everyone else unwilling to challenge the rule of the day, one youngster dares to be brave, face his fears and question their decisions.
A story such as this resonates well in South Africa where so many are shifting below the breadline, jobs are scarce and political/ governing decisions are made that are not often for the benefit of those at grassroots level. But we are seeing an upsurge in the young working and middle classes who are daring to ask more questions about their futures.
Pairing up with director Lihle Dhlomo was a good move on Mkhwane’s part. I’ve had the privilege of watching her on stage as an actress. From more serious pieces like Neil Coppen’s Abnormal Loads to Ronnie Govender’s Botoo – where she played two roles. She consistently performs with excellence.
So it was nice to experience a different side of Dhlomo’s characters in her position as director for Last Cow Standing, another area where she’s delivered with excellence.
Every aspect was well co-ordinated. The minimalist yet effective stage design and lighting spoke to the costumes, which spoke to the characters and ambience of the production.
Which brings me to the part I’ve saved for last – the best for last – Mkhwane’s performance. Kudos to him and Dhlomo for the reality of the characters they’ve achieved on stage. Mkhwane deserves special mention for performing with aplomb.
From a little boy to an Indian vendor to a snooty king’s advisor to a dying grandmother and more – Mkhwane morphed in and out of character at the drop of a hat. And I say “morphed” because he’s obviously taken the time to get to the guts of each character in accent, demeanour, body language, facial expression and more. He transforms into different characters in the blink of an eye.
A must-see for the family and anyone interested in experiencing some of the best raw theatre Durban has to offer.
• Last Cow Standing stages at the Catalina Theatre until Sunday. Tickets are R100 at Computicket or R80 at the door. 8.30pm Monday to Saturday, with 3pm matinees on Saturday and Sunday. For bookings call the theatre at 031 837 5999.