What happens when a country’s political hero ends up as a villain? As a country, we’ve had to answer this question in some of the most heartbreaking ways. Green Man Flashing, a play that explores some of these issues,opened at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton last week.
Featuring a cast of established actors and actresses, all you have to worry about while watching the production is how deep in the story you get lost. If you didn’t know of Mike van Graan’s prowess as a playwright, then Green Man Flashing is a perfect introduction.
Penned in 1999, a couple of years after the country’s first democratic election, it explores the minefield that is sexual assault, and what its devastating impact is if the rapist happens to be a Struggle stalwart. At the centre of the storyline, we have Gabby Anderson and Aaron Matshoba (played by Michelle Douglas and Litha Bam) who are anti-apartheid activists married to one another.
Michelle is raped by a prominent politician that she works for and Aaron, the party’s resident fixer, is sent in to “fix” the situation, before it spills out into the media and ruins the party’s chances at the polls the following year.
The play is loaded.
The text explores the tensions that become exposed when the personal is involved in a spectacular collision with the political. More than anything, I was struck at how relevant the play is still, in the year 2018, considering the high-profile rape cases we’ve seen in the country that involve prominent politicians, and how they’ve played out. Our political context, it seems, has not changed much.
It was my first experience of the legendary Sechaba Morojele and David Dennis on stage. I have seen them mostly on television, and even then they were enjoyable to watch. I imagine that this is what watching an acting masterclass must be like. Watching them wear these characters was an absolute treat.
Bam as Aaron is also impressive. He embodies so well the confidence bordering on cockiness that I would imagine from a “fixer”.
The text itself needs no introduction. It is a story that is told in a gripping way, with the politics of the personal and country interweaving to create a Molotov cocktail.
This is as raw as we can expect the rainbow nation to be, especially in its teething phase when we’re still trying to find our way around the rape pandemic, irresponsible wielding of political power and the lines between love and hate; right and wrong; the quest for justice and vigilantism; self-preservation and being a martyr for justice.
There are some stereotypes, but none to distract you from the story itself. Aaron dispassionately asks the character Anna (played by Kate Liquorish, who is brilliant), what she’d do in the case of the Green Man Flashing scenario.
I paraphrase here what he says: “You’re standing at the traffic lights. The green man starts flashing to indicate that it’s your turn to cross the road. But just as you’re about to, a taxi is speeding down the road at 80km, clearly about to skip the red light. Will you continue walking and ultimately cross the road?”
I spent the night wondering what I’d do. And that is what Green Man Flashing demands of you. May you, also, make the right decision.
Group bookings for schools are available. Tickets at the theatre or from Computicket.