FORMING part of the South African Women’s Arts Festival (Sawaf) is the world premiere production Beyond the Big Bangs by award-winning playwright Ashwin Singh. Presented by the Singh Siblings (an artistic collaboration between Ashwin Singh and Shantal Singh) in association with The Playhouse Company, the new comedy drama features acclaimed performers Shona Johnson, Derosha Moodley and Annalisa Gxabu.
In an interview with Tonight, Singh explained the significance of Beyond the Big Bangs from his anthology, Durban Dialogues, Indian Voice and what it entails: “This play is one of the two mascots of the book with the other play being Reoca Light, a one-man show to be played by Rory Booth early next year. Beyond the Big Bangs is about three women, one black, one Indian and one coloured, who either work or live in Durban North and it’s about their connections and conflicts with their families and community. So we see them in their individual activities, in monologues in which they play different characters. Then we see them at the beginning and end as an ensemble so in that sense, it’s also a little bit different in structure.”
On premiering at the Sawaf, Singh says Beyond the Big Bangs is ideally suited for the festival since it celebrates women and women’s issues. “With the festival, it’s very necessary because despite the fact that women drive theatre around the world, I still think they are underrepresented in our stories. And I’m tired of seeing stereotypical women as well, defined largely by the men they’re in relationships with. None of the women in Beyond the Big Bangs are in relationships. And I also wanted to write a play about black women in all their shades. There are three black women: an African, an Indian and a mixed race. From all the research I’ve done, I have not seen a single theatrical production in our history that has three black women from the different black communities as primary characters. I doubt there’s anything like it. Obviously, there were musicals and something like that, definitely perhaps a dance maybe, but the Indian, coloured and African in drama, I have not seen that in this country.” (The Tonight does not necessarily share Singh’s viewpoints.)
Singh does not like to be categorised as a playwright writing about the Indian community or an Indian play: “I have hardly ever written only about the Indian community anyway. And I don’t see myself as an Indian. I’m a South African with an Indian origin. But people love to do that, they love to put you in boxes.”
So taking it upon himself to class the lead actresses under the broad blanket term of “black”, with subcategories of African, Indian and mixed race is not putting people in boxes, then? Moving swiftly along…
Having staged Culture Clash about a year ago, I ask Singh if he is making a comeback to the stage.
“I’ve been involved in theatre throughout that time, it’s just that I’ve been one of the chief mentors for the Community Arts Mentorship Programme at the Playhouse and I’ve been promoting my book and I’m not performing so I wouldn’t say it’s accurate to say it’s a comeback to stage. I think it’s more a return to the production mode after a year because it’s more the production and literary side.”
Audiences can expect a lot of laughter.
• Beyond the Big Bangs will be staged in Durban’s Loft Theatre from August 20 to 23. Tickets R80 (with concessions for pensioners) at Computicket.
Other highlights at the SAWAF this year
• Shades, written by Sharman Macdonald and directed by Ralph Lawson, tells the story of Pearl, a young widow who bitterly resents her husband for dying and leaving her with the prospect of a lonely old age and her mother who was unable to provide her with the affection she craved as a child. Shades features the popular Lisa Bobbert as Pearl. It runs from August 22 to 31.
• Music lovers can look forward to a memorable Gala Concert that will feature some of the country’s finest musical talents including internationally renowned group Mafikizolo, Sama Best Newcomer, Naima Kay and more. Somizi, Mhlongo known for his exceptional work, will be directing this event which will be on August 27 at The Opera Theatre. Tickets range from R150 to R250.
• For dance enthusiasts there’s a special surprise in store for you – From Then ’Til Now, which is Mark Hawkin’s presentation to commemorate the country’s two decades of democracy, a work that honours and celebrates the people and issues that have helped mould South Africa into the country it is today. Tickets are from R80 to R100.
• The Playhouse will host its annual Intergenerational Women’s Dialogue, a platform for women and men, young and old, to converse on issues pertaining Women in 20 Years of Democracy.