As art often imitates life, the production 'Another One’s Bread', commissioned by the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, aims to bring to the fore this serious issue through a play centred around the intersecting lives of four black women living in Khayelitsha.
Written by Mike van Graan and directed by veteran actress Pamela Nomvete, it’s a dark comedy about food, funerals and feeding schemes.
When I caught up with the cast consisting of Faniswa Yisa, Chuma Sopotela, Motlatji Ditodi and Awethu Hleli a day before their opening night in front of Joburg audiences, the first thing I wanted to know is how we find ourselves laughing about food, or the absence thereof.
“When we’re dealing with poverty, realistically, people are not crying all the time. People survive. And being the people we are, we laugh, we cry, we sing, we dance about the issues that we face. This is not to make light of issues of food security, but we are in it so deep that it’s part of our lives,” Yisa says.
By way of continuing Sopotela adds: “The setting in the story is great for both. Because they are mourners. And in funerals, there’s a lot of food, a lot of leftovers. Some people go to funerals to eat. It’s a survival tactic. For the characters too, it’s survival. Mourning becomes a way to earn extra money. This is a reality of many black people.”
The story is that of four women known as The Substitutes.Their lives intersect in ways that end up bringing them together to the point of forming a group for the purposes of creating extra money.
They start a mourning service and create packages that bereaved families can select from, with different actions for a fee. But their characters are not just simply clear-cut. You see in them activists without the pomp for causes they believe in.
Brenda, played by Hleli, is the youngest of The Substitutes. She was arrested for stealing sanitary towels with the intention of giving them to a friend in need.
Sis Pumla, on the other hand, collects leftovers at funerals for the local schools feeding scheme. These characters are complex and concerned with the business of survival.
Van Graan workshopped the script with the cast to best portray the nuances of black women. Nomvete is also credited by the cast as being an important source of positivity for them, which made the relationship between them harmonious, allowing for the actresses to put forward the best of their talents.
The production is also 100% black female produced, from the choreographer Jacqueline Manyaapelo to the costume and set designers Karabo Legoabe-Mtshali and Nthabiseng Makone.
I quiz the cast about what they expect their Joburg run to be like. For them, the interest lies in seeing the audience responses to the play. And most importantly, that those who’ve watched it can begin the process of thinking and acting when it comes to the issues of the day.
Another One’s Bread is on at the Market Theatre until February 4.
As a vula m’lomo (a customary gift offered at mahadi/lobola negotiations), the cast will be collecting sanitary towels for girls who cannot afford them. Viewers of the show are encouraged to bring a packet (or packets) to be dropped into a basket at the end of the show.