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‘The Brothers Size’ is a must-see theatre piece this Black History Month

KATLEGO Chale and Nhlakanipho Manqele. SUPPLIED

KATLEGO Chale and Nhlakanipho Manqele. SUPPLIED

Published Feb 4, 2022



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OSCAR-winning playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney's captivating play The Brothers Size is back at the Market Theatre as part of the Black History Month celebration.

The play made its debut at the Market in 2012, starring an American cast.

With artistic director James Ngcobo at the helm, the South African edition of The Brothers Size is being staged at the Market for a limited season.

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The play follows the story of two brothers, Ogun Size, played by Nhlakanipho Manqele, and Oshoosi Size, played by Katlego Chale.

The duo is joined by Elegba (Marlo Minnaar), a friend who comes to stir the pot and sow discord between the siblings.

“What also drew me to the play was Tarell’s poetic writing and his ability to link the plight of a young African-American male in America today back to his forefathers who were taken from West Africa and sent to America as slaves,” says Ngcobo.

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“And he's asking a question, ‘How much has changed?’ When I choose these American plays, they always had a conversation with this country.

“What is also interesting about this play is even though it is set in Louisiana, the characters have Nigerian names and influence. They have Yoruba names, Ogun, Oshoosi, Elegba.

“When you get to Nigerian cosmology you will learn that Elegba means the god of deception, Ogun is the god of iron and labour, while Oshoosi is the wanderer.

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“Every year, I read a lot of these plays. And I'm always drawn by themes … If you think of the one (play) that I did last year called Pass Over.

“It touched on two poor young African-American men looking for a sense of utopia, looking for a place where they don't have to be running away from cops, a place where they don't have to be shot crossing the road. So when I read this play (The Brothers Size), the first thing that drew my attention was the theme of incarceration, which is so rife in this country.

“Incarceration in America is a continuum of the slave system that has morphed into something else. People are almost designed to end up in prison.

“And this happens in the projects, in areas where there are many socio-economic challenges. It is the same in South Africa, young poor black men would most likely end up in jail. It’s systemic.”

At its core, The Brothers Size interrogates themes of brotherhood, family and masculinity.

In the play, the one brother gives up everything to make sure that his sibling never goes back to prison.

“And the way we've worked on this play, you will see the brothers hold each other, hug each other, they cry together. These brothers love each other. They will break their backs for one another, they will die for each other. And I needed that to be visible for audiences to witness.”

Ngcobo says the 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Award winner Lulu Mlangeni brings her magical touch to the production.

She is responsible for the choreography in the play.

“What I love about Lulu, besides the right madness that she brings into the room, she has a madness that is so beautiful. She also brings a different voice to my voice. And I'm just so humbled by her contribution to this work.”

The Brothers Size is showing at the Market Theatre until February 28.

Tickets are available at Webtickets from R90.