DEBATE: Ameera Patel plays the character of Payal, a prostitute who makes an unlikely friend in a Zimbabwean night watchman in the play Tamasha on Hope Street.
Today the Market Theatre will host the official opening of the cutting-edge play Tamasha on Hope Street.

Making his directorial debut at the theatre is Gopala Davies.

The award-winning director is best known for his production Barbe Bleue: A Story About Madness.

Tamasha on Hope Street is a story about the unlikely friendship formed between Payal, an Indian girl born in Chatsworth, near Durban, who works as a street prostitute, and Albert, a Zimbabwean night watchman.

Tamasha is a Hindi word meaning “trouble” or “chaos”.

“That is the focus in looking at poverty that becomes the equalising factor with the characters,” said Davies.

The play stars talent that includes actors Dhaveshan Govender, Lindani Nkosi, Matthew MacFarlane, Afzal Khan, Keith Gengadoo and Ameera Patel. The production hopes to spark a strong debate around poverty, race, religion and cultural values.

Davies said that coming from Chatsworth himself made the narrative much more authentic to direct.

“Even though the piece revolves around the Indian characters, it explores many factors that affect people. It’s misogynistic in what the men do to the woman but also explores feminism and delves into the themes of xenophobia, and a woman’s body being used as an object and a commodity.

“It also unpacks the Indian generalisations and inherent stigmas within it, like the ostracising of the female body because of the things it does that aren’t expected of it.”

Davies said the unexpected friendship between the two characters is one of circumstance as both find themselves doing what they can to survive.

“The play is cutting edge; I’m known for the edge I put into my work. I do intermedial theatre (digital technology, interactive performance in theatre practice) and that’s how I have established myself.”

Davies said that through the narrative of the play, he uses boxes on the set, and they are used to represent the symbolic world the characters live in.

“It’s not an easy narrative, his writing (playwright Rajesh Gopie) never shies away from the harshness of realities,” he said.

Davies said he hoped the audience would see the honesty of the play.

“We all have shared scars and there are many parallels that people will pick up on from the characters. It’s not a spectacle narrative. The arch of the story is not classic Hollywood.”

The play is part of the Department of Arts and Culture’s Incubator funded programme.

It runs at the Market Theatre until October 1. Ticket prices start from R70.