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Theatre productions shine a spotlight on humanity this Africa Month

Francois Jacobs and Mncedisi Shabangu in ‘Blood Knot’. Picture: Siphiwe Mhlambi

Francois Jacobs and Mncedisi Shabangu in ‘Blood Knot’. Picture: Siphiwe Mhlambi

Published May 18, 2022

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This Africa Month, theatre houses across the country are staging shows that will help celebrate and reflect on Africa’s rich and diverse cultural identities and heritage.

As we mark this important time as a continent, we look at some of the theatre productions that celebrate the pride of the African people.

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These theatre productions also recognised the struggles and victories of the African people.

The plays unpack societal issues including race, childhood traumas, gender-based violence, healing and humanity.

Kunene and the King

“How do you put a nation’s history on stage?” In this remarkable play, John Kani, as formidable a writer as he is an actor, does it through a confrontation between two men who represent polarised aspects of the South African experience.

Marking 25 years since the country’s first post-apartheid democratic elections, the play becomes an exploration of race, class, politics, theatre, and the potentially unifying power of Shakespeare.

“Kunene and the King” makes its debut at the Joburg Theatre on May 27, thereafter moving onto the Playhouse Theatre and Mandela Bay Theatre Complex in July.

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Antony Sher and John Kani in ‘Kunene and the King’. Picture: Supplied

Brutal Legacy

This adaptation of former radio and TV presenter Tracy Going’s best-selling domestic violence memoir, “Brutal Legacy”. Written and adapted by Natasha Sutherland, who also plays the older Tracy, the play is directed by Lesedi Job.

“Brutal Legacy” explores the parallels between Tracy’s childhood with an alcoholic father and her adult trauma at the hands of an abusive boyfriend.

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It is on stage that Tracy recruits her younger self to help write a memoir, which pushes the two versions of herself into a showdown, where they explore the concepts of blame versus shame and question if there will ever be actual healing.

“Brutal Legacy” is showing at The Playhouse Company from Thursday, May 19, until Sunday, May 22.

The Playhouse is hosting its annual New Stages season which will run until May 28.

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The multi award-winning musical “Shaka Zulu:  The Gaping Wound” is also showcasing at this year’s event.

Charlie Bougenon and Jessica Wolhuter in ‘Brutal Legacy’. Picture: Supplied

Reflection and Reflex

“Reflection and Reflex: is a contemporary dance piece - a magical but deeply painful new work by Thulani Chauke and Fana Tshabalala.

In this piece, two men dance in a poetic relationship to a sculpture of steel, evolving in multiple forms. Directed by Gerard Bester, “Reflection and Reflex” shines the spotlight on humanity.

The production is currently running until Sunday, May 22.

The cast of ‘Reflection and Reflex’. Picture: Supplied

Athol Fugard’s Blood Knot

Following its sold-out success at The Market Theatre, South African theatre legend, Athol Fugard’s acclaimed play, “Blood Knot”, is on at the Baxter Theatre until May 28.

Fugard’s timeless classic, “Blood Knot”, which tackles themes of brotherhood and hope, first premiered in 1961. It is as relevant today.

The play delves into the bond of love between two brothers, the kind that transcends skin colour.

The two brothers are forced to dream as they navigate the intricacies of being stuck in a place that offers them nothing but its squalor and the poverty that they are confronted with every single moment.

Like all great classics, it is relatable and searingly intimate and offers hope in this delicate conversation with South Africa’s present-day reality.

Mncedisi Shabangu and Francois Jacobs in ‘Blood Knot’. Picture: Siphiwe Mhlambi

Hlakanyana

“Hlakanyana” is set to bring folklore, award-winning music, and magic to the Keorapetse William Kgositsile Theatre at the UJ Arts Centre on Africa Day.

Directed by theatre icon Janice Honeyman, “Hlakanyana” features a cunning, unethical creature, depicted in animal or human form, and who is the long-awaited son of the chief of a village, but instead of being a uniting force, he leaves devastation in his wake.

A retelling of the traditional Zulu folktale, “Hlakanyana” is an Afrofuturistic fusion of traditional folklore in a contemporary world.

The play is set to open at the UJ Arts Centre on May 25, and the show runs until June 8.

Hlakanyana. Picture: Supplied

The New Abnormal and Country Duty

Two new plays by Mike Van Graan are set to take centre stage at the Theatre on the Square this month.

“The New Abnormal” is a scathingly humorous commentary about South Africa’s pandemics both real and metaphorical , while “Country Duty” highlights the many trials and few triumphs of the country’s heroic whistle-blowers.

Both shows will premiere at Sandton’s Theatre on the Square as a double-header from May 25 until June 11.

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