THE SAD THING about living in this society, tainted as it is by political rhetoric, is that after having weathered the kind of circumstances which saw our former president Jacob Zuma use hundreds of millions of tax payers’ rands to create his own personal luxury compound – among other things – none of Zakes Mda’s nightmarish fantasy about a similar circumstance in an unnamed country, has much kick left. We know what corruption smells like and it’s not pretty.
But that’s not all that’s unfortunate here. The current production of the Mda classic which is a contemplation on the Orwellian doublespeak that justifies pigheaded power and the wily decisions it takes, lacks credible direction. The cast, with the exception of Molefi Monaisa in the role of the president himself, is so wooden that you feel you can see the page from which they’ve learned their script, as you watch them perform. The energy behind the work is thrust forward with shouting rather than nuance, and there are too many unthought-through tricks and gimmicks in the work’s set and sound decisions, including a gender fluidity which almost works, but doesn’t.
Monaisa, who audiences may know from his presence in local television series, embodies the extravagantly unkempt, bullying and grotesque character of the leader of this broken regime. He’s like Ubu – the quintessential braggard with a big stomach, toilet manners and no sense of others, made famous as a theatrical construct in the late 19th century – and with his bare feet and ink-stained presence offers you a take on how absurd political diatribe can appear behind closed doors.
There are curious audio-visual projections which cast a little – but not enough – magic on the play and by and large it seems like ideas that have not been given the time or the focus to hatch and grow organically. There are too many structural and theatrical red herrings that muddy the focus of this Mda work, dragging your eye in a diversity of directions. And the performers? They’re the tragic figures in the project, abandoned to undeveloped visions, offering a presentation which is at best soporific.
- You fool, how can the sky fall? is written by Zakes Mda and directed by James Ngcobo. Performed by Moliehi Makobane, Molefi Monaisa, Nthati Moshesh, Zenzo Ngqobe, Zola Nombona, Pulani Sekepe and Linda Sokhulu, it features design by Karabo Mtshali, Nthabiseng Makone and Nthabiseng Malaka (set and costumes), Nomvula Molepo (lighting), Jurgen Meekel (audiovisual) and Nthuthuko Mbuyazi, and performs at the Mannie Manim Theatre, Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg, until October 28. Call 011-832-1641.