Abnormal Loads

Writer/designer: Neil Coppen

Directors: Neil Coppen and Janna Ramos-Violante

Cast: Mothusi Magano, Alison Cassels, Jenna Dunster, Fortunate Dhlomo, Thomie Holtzhausen, Nhlakanipho Manqele, Clinton Small, Ntombi Gasa, Shayna de Kock and Nosipho Bophela

Venue: Market Theatre Main Theatre

Until: May 13

Rating: ****

Standard Bank Young Artist 2011 Neil Coppen’s new play premieres at the Market Theatre as a production that has settled into its skin.

Since opening at the National Arts Festival last year, the story is much clearer, told precisely, and the history less didactic. And the Market Theatre’s main theatre provides intimate viewing.

With this one Coppen explores history, how subjective it is, how differently people tell their stories and whose version makes it into the history books. With all this, you might wonder which is the real story.

He also manages to inject some humour, making fun of how seriously South Africans tend to take themselves.

And he nails the balance between the importance of history and the hilarity that comes with it, taking an irreverent look at how history is often misconstrued to benefit some individuals.

The narrative is set in a fictional battlefield town in the valleys of northern KwaZulu-Natal and brings together a historical epic, love drama and dark comedy.

It focuses on 30-year-old loner Vincent Liversage, who meets 16-year-old Katrien, the rebellious daughter of the local NG Kerk minister. The two form an unusual friendship and plan to escape the oppressive town of their birth.

But to get their freedom, they must first face the challenges and truths of their divided families.

Coppen’s design allows the story to unfold magically with his clever imagery and use of multimedia helping to further the plot.

While showing the differences between Afrikaners, the English and Zulus, among which the action takes place, the story also highlights their humanity.

The show boasts a great ensemble cast led by Mothusi Magano, Alison Cassels and Jenna Dunster.

And the beginning and the end of the play speak of a death that symbolises a new beginning of sorts.

That, perhaps, is the underlying symbol the production represents – youngsters taking things to their own level and exploring history in their own terms.

This is refined and soulful theatre.