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GREEN MAN FLASHING
DIRECTOR: Hennie van Greunen
CAST: Anthea Thompson, Susan Danford, Thami Mbongo, Wiseman Sithole and |Charlton George
VENUE: Artscape Theatre
Green means go, but in Mike van Graan’s play, Green Man Flashing, we get to stop at a moment in time and rewind.
Through a large projector screen facing the audience, we watch a video of a woman and a man argue. The quality is more eKasi Stories than anything else, but before there is enough time to dwell on that, a gun is fired and there is a man down. There is darkness and then the actors are on stage, doing their bit to tell us how this man and woman found themselves in that position in the first place.
It is 1999 and a few weeks before SA’s second democratic elections. The woman is Gabby Anderson, a character who must, in one moment, be able to be deep in conversation during a girls’ night in and in the next moment, arguing with her husband and back again without leaving the stage.
She is skilfully pulled off by Anthea Thompson. She is also at the centre of a debacle that has the potential to change the course of history.
Having returned from exile, Gabby and her husband, Aaron (Wiseman Sithole) – a black spin doctor who is a staunch believer in putting the country above his own family – feel the demands of an apartheid-free country tugging at them. Eventually their marriage comes apart at the seams.
When, a few years later, Gabby is allegedly raped by a top politician, the party sends Aaron and his sidekick, Luthando (Thami Mbongo) in to repair whatever damage may have been caused and keep Gabby quiet.
Aaron is good at making things go away but this time, he reveals a side of himself even Gabby did not know about.
Gabby’s friend, Anna (the outstanding Susan Danford) is the lawyer who tries to talk her off the ledge by convincing her this career-making case could be good to send a message that rape in SA is unacceptable.
With nothing but geometric shapes to make up the set, the cast uses emotions conveyed through acting to move the story along. In most instances, this is really powerful.
The dramatic interactions between Sithole and Thompson are especially wonderful to watch.
The words on the projector screen when it isn’t showing pre-recorded footage do well to drive home the messages that aren’t acted out on stage.
The screen has words such as “history of suggestions” running horizontally, “ashamed of being silent for doing nothing” runs on elsewhere and “sorry” runs vertically. They are sometimes faint and cut off here and there, but the black and white words, we learn as the story plays out, are part of a recollection Inspector Adams (Charlton George) delivers to the TRC.
At times, the dialogue feels over-written, but the actors make up for it with the sheer intensity felt between a divorced couple, or the tears of a mother who’s lost her only son.
Green Man Flashing is definitely an evocative must-see.