Theatre performance review by Lebo Mashifane
I feel the chill of “the winter rain”…no; the chills of a great performance as I become engulfed by Sibulele Gcilitshana playing the role of Thokozile in a A New Song play written and directed by Napo Masheane, opened on Wednesday, 28 October 2015.
Sam Mathe – live theatre (The Sunday Independent, October 25 2015, p. 2) “A New Song will make history… when it becomes the first theatre production to be staged at the Market Theatre with a woman as a producer, writer and director.”
This beautiful busy bee butterfly – yes, I said it, bee butterfly; has been locally and internationally active as a performer, publisher, executive member and founder of several items and she still breathes and bleeds for women empowerment.
I personally remember Napo as the voice that said “Whatever you want, wants you. Whatever need, needs you. Whatever you seek, seeks you” (a poem she recited). As if she spoke directly to my soul and made me feel like I could grip a dream and have what is impossible, become tangible. She has returned to my attention, this time with A New Song depicting beauty and bravery to captivate my soul, skin and site. One woman, one face as the emphasis of their concept that every woman is different even though they have struggles and successes.
Four black women are “domestic workers” to lonely white women. Napo could have her own way of describing it perhaps. Themi Baleka who plays a role of Bantu,a helper that looks after a white-owned family house and raise a baby of the white-owned family to eventually calling the baby that she raised as “madam” as she now works for her. Bantu being the first to “comply” to the passbook system yet eventually reaches her demise. These black women carry different domestic struggles from their homes to their “madams” homes. By “their home” I also consider the home of their core, their hearts – their hearts’ desires and their hearts’ destructions.
They thirst for freedom, liberation from racism and sexism.
The portrayal of black heroines who fought to death in the 50’s in South Africa. They fight for their rights no to carry pass books/ “reference book” (a barcoded booklet from the home affairs department issued to the black citizens). The guts of a brave and bitter black woman make her the leader of the Congress movement that eventually makes her an independent free woman. ‘Sbindi uyabulala, sibindi uyaphilisa’ (a Zulu saying translated to bravery you kill, bravery you rescue).
“Sometimes silence is the best conversation”. “Sometimes silence is the only weapon” are the words of not a black, nor a white woman, but an Indian woman who plays a discreet yet dense role in the play.
The intense feeling along with the astounding lighting and music that includes Congo drums made me quiver and chant to “Mayibuye iAfrika” (Africa must return to its rightful owners – as the character Thokozile well defines the Zulu phrase). A fusion of images displayed from an overhead projector, words, emotions, acting, dance and music that gives one the shivers.
I cried tears of joy when I read that the main theatre at The Market Theatre is changing to John Kani Theatre in honor of the great legend of South Africa. It is paramount to honor our pioneers while they are still alive; unlike nonsensical practices of honoring them when they are dead whereas opportunities availed for them to witness their commemoration.
Let Africa return to its rightful owners. Since even street names are changing in the country, perhaps in the near future even The Market Theatre could be renamed… maybeeee Gcina Mhlophe Theatre!!!
ONE WOMAN, ONE FACE!
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