Marriage and how to do married life right are probably some of the most contested ideas on the globe. Everyone has a recipe, everyone has pearls of wisdom to share, but more often than not, it’s the married couple that can determine what works for them.
It’s no surprise then that art will tackle one of the most contentious questions that humans are forced to tackle, through a production called Nyala O’. The Sotho show will be on at the State Theatre from next week.
It’s title derived from a colloquial Sotho saying: “Nyala O’ Nyele” (Marriage is not an easy process). The play aims to debunk the myths surrounding marriage and, most importantly, get audiences talking.
With South Africa’s staggering divorce rate showing that people are disillusioned with marriage, the production aims to tackle this often taboo subject from the point of view of women.
Written and directed by Tselane Mashilo, the play follows the marital journey of Nomsa, who is committed to Joe. The audience have a front-row seat in some of Nomsa’s intimate conversations, as she navigates how things are expected to be done both traditionally and according to Western societal standards.
Speaking to Tonight, Mashilo said the play was a deliberate act of defying the negative norms around marriage.
“The title is very deliberate. I understand that the saying as it is, is aimed at cautioning us against taking marriage lightly, but why can’t I marry to find happiness in my other half? Or get told that I can get married and be prosperous? There are so many good reasons why marriage can be good, and why you’d want to stay in it,” Mashilo said.
The symbol used in the play’s title on its posters is a toilet. In the actual production, the toilet also plays a prominent role. Mashilo says, she’s all about helping this constipated country of ours figuratively (and maybe literally) find relief.
“We used this symbol because we’re such a constipated nation. We relieve ourselves.
“With this play, I’m saying let’s talk about our issues in marriages, work towards finding solutions to our problems. Get rid of all the bad stuff, and maybe we won’t see marriage in such a negative light,” she said.
The show features six cast members and is about an hour and a half long. The major themes running through it include communication, the sexuality of women and tackling gender roles and how they play themselves out.
“Traditionally the show used to be an hour long, but the audience in Mamelodi, in Soshanguve, have loved it, and simply demanded that it be made longer. So I did. But I also included a white woman in the cast, because I was concerned about the message that the production was possibly sending - that marital problems are a uniquely a black phenomenon, which we all know is not true,” Mashilo said.
On why people should come see the show, especially those who weren’t fortunate enough to catch it last August, Mashilo said: “The title itself should leave you intrigued enough to come find out what it is exactly that we’re saying. Beyond that, we use beautiful language in it, but it’s a comedy. It’s perfect for a good laugh that will leave you with food for thought.”
Nyala O’ runs at the State Theatre from February 9 to 18. Book at Computicket or the theatre. No under 18s.