Gina Shmukler

CAST: Khutjo Green, Gabi Harris

VENUE: Barney Simon Theatre at the Market

DATES: Until August 12 (8.15pm

Tuesday to Saturday; 3pm Sundays)

RATING: ****

THERE are few things as powerful as telling stories and exploring issues on stage that people shy away from in their daily lives.

We are very good at turning away and not dealing in this country because of conditioning for decades not to face the truth in case we can’t handle it. That’s how evils flourish in a society, when people are too scared or even apathetic to take an issue on.

Xenophobia is one of the more explosive atrocities that perhaps more than most things has caught people unawares locally. Who would have guessed that people for so long oppressed would turn on others who seem to be in an even worse state but had also put out a helping hand in the past?

There are many factors that play into what is happening on the ground and usually it has to do with expectations and economic hardships. If you have been promised a better life and everything points that way, when it isn’t forthcoming, it is common to turn on people in an even more perilous condition.

Look back at horrific deeds in history, and the Holocaust or the Rwanda genocide immediately surface. It is those people who have nowhere to turn who often become the targets of those who feel hard done by. With the previously disadvantaged in this country still suffering from lack of education and jobs with promises being made but seemingly not benefiting the masses, the closest targets are hardworking, mostly African immigrants who often fled their own countries in search of safety.

What fascinated Shmukler, when she started research for her masters in trauma and theatre making, were how people got pulled into doing things they wouldn’t have imagined – especially women.

What she does with The Line is document through her two actors how different people experienced the 2008 xenophobia attacks. She has collated different voices rather than written a play and the way she intertwines these memories is where the impact lies.

She’s also tackling something that is still as prevalent today yet not part of daily discussions.

As a country what we experienced was shock and shame, but as one of the characters says, some of the squatter camps where our own people live are not fit for human beings. Why would we be surprised when something pushes people who live in squalor and dire circumstances over the edge?

When people feel they don’t have a voice or are simply ignored, they are also easily manipulated by those who don’t get their hands dirty but have an agenda. Again the examples in our world are numerous and yet we won’t listen.

Shmukler, with two strong actors to help her, hopes to make people listen. Green is stunning as she switches between characters while Harris pulls it off most of the time but should watch out not to slip into caricature.

Like Lara Foot’s Tshepang a few years back, Shmukler illuminates real people and their anguish in a country where we too easily turn the other way.