Menzi Mkhwane and Rory Booth.

In his latest stage work, Durban-based playwright, Ashwin Singh, brings to light issues of social activism, racism, corruption and friendship in South Africa.

Directed by Ralph Lawson and starring, Rory Booth, Menzi Mkhwane and Singh, “Into The Grey” runs until September 15.

Singh, who has a natural instinct and a creative interest to write plays about South Africa’s contemporary socio-political landscape said the script was developed to showcase the end of the country’s honeymoon phase (Mandela period).

“Over the last decade we’ve moved into a period of dark complexity, contradictions and uncertainty. We are being forced to confront many ugly realities and there are no easy solutions: hence we find ourselves in a grey world, not a black and white one. We have to be honest and go into the grey…and then pull together in the same direction for a long time to create a better nation,” he said.

Into the Grey is about the complex journey of two activists, Dr Logan Pillay, (played by Singh) and Advocate Sandile Ndlovu (played by Mkhwane) between 1988 and 2018.

“It examines their initial friendship, then their bitter alienation from each other and finally how they briefly reconcile during a time of national crisis. It also explores their impact at important South African institutions: a university, a hospital, a political party and a youth centre as they try, in different ways, to make meaningful contributions in our evolving democracy,” he said.

Singh said the production was born out of a need to ask challenging questions as to why South Africa was sinking into an abyss.

“Struggle values have been compromised, corruption in the public sector is endemic, economic disparity has become intolerable…. I wanted to present a work which examined the last days of Apartheid, our difficult transition to democracy and then the contemporary crises that we face…all through the eyes of activists who battle professional foes and personal demons in their attempts to build a world based on a human rights culture,” said Singh.

Excited about the production he said the story has a good balance sadness and action.

“The play has many poignant moments but also lot’s of action…so it’s a nice balance. I am sure that it will draw a strong emotional response from audiences. Durban audiences are always very expressive. It will stir the emotions create anger, sadness, fear and joy. The layered characters and unique story will enthral. And the passionate performances and innovative direction and design will dazzle, which is great,” he said.

One of the themes explored in the production include social activism and the complexities of dismantling institutionalised racism whilst attempting to build a society based on a human rights culture.

“It also examines how community activists as well as national leaders can become seduced by material temptations and corrupted by power. And of course, it also looks at how friendship evolves over time, especially when life becomes more complex and challenging,” said Singh.

About the cast, he said Booth and Mkhwane have rich experience, both on stage and screen. “They are very versatile and have a vast emotional range. Rory has played multiple roles in other productions of mine and is required to do so again here. Menzi has to play a character that we see in his twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. These guys are thorough professionals, totally committed to the job. They also work very effectively with director, Ralph Lawson,” said Singh.

About the set design, Singh said it was expressionist.

“That is what was best suited to this play which has multiple settings and significant socio-political symbolism in the content. Ralph Lawson designed the set in consultation with Greg King,”.

Singh plans for the production to travel to Johannesburg and the Grahamstown National Arts Festival.

“When my one-man play, Reoca Light, performed by Rory Booth finishes its international tour in 2020, then I will consider taking Into the Grey overseas. First up at that point will probably be Barcelona. Dr Felicity Hand of the Autonomous University of Barcelona will be teaching Into the Grey on their Master of Arts programme next year. She is coming to Durban for the opening night of the production,” he said.

* Tickets for Into the Grey are R80 with concessions for students and pensioners. The show starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are available via Computicket, telephonically on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.com, or by calling the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540/ 369 9596 (office hours).