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WOMAN IN WAITING
DIRECTOR: Yael Farber
CAST: Thembi Mtshali-Jones
VENUE: The Golden Arrow Theatre, Baxter Theatre Centre
UNTIL: October 12
MORE than a decade on, Thembi Mtshali-Jones (pictured) delivers just as powerful a performance in this one-woman show as she has right from the beginning.
The stage is sparse, with a big wooden box serving as anything from a womb to a comfy perch. Props are minimal, pared down to only the necessary, while the performance is a mixture of intimate storytelling and singing.
Conceived and written with director Yael Farber in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, the hour-long drama is a homage to the women who not only waited patiently to tell the stories, but waited out apartheid with dignity.
Woman in Waiting is as much Mtshali-Jones’s biography as it is the life story of numerous South African women.
The only difference between Mtshali-Jones and the next woman, though, is that she has opened her mouth and told her story.
She takes us right back to how she was born and named and brings us into the world of a little child, waiting for her parents to visit, once a year at Christmas.
We travel with her to Kwa-Mashu where she lived with her siblings as her mother worked hard to support the entire family while swallowing her pride and waiting for things to get better.
Then we come to how Mtshali-Jones experienced apartheid, and specifically the regret she feels about leaving her daughter to be raised by her own mother, repeating the cycle she experienced.
Her pain is still just as real because she knows she cannot get that time back.
This is the part that is either an uncomfortable reminder or an eye-opener into your mother/grandmother’s silence.
She reminds us that we cannot know where we are going if we don’t know where we come from, and with her voice she draws us into her life, which has formed the backbone of the life story of so many South Africans.
It is either a cathartic reminder or an epiphany, but either way Mtshali-Jones cradles you in the palm of her hand for an hour to remind you that the virtue of patience sometimes hides a lifetime of heartache.