Review

For the man who has everything: loss

Jobe

TAKE it all! The Red Ants (Titus Mekwe and Simpho Mathenjwa) under the leadership of Professor (Teboho Sengoai) come to get the last bits of the material goods of Jobe (Muzi Mthabela), from the gown on his back to the rings on the fingers of his wife (Mogau Paulina Motlhatswi). Photograph courtesy plugintheatre.co.za

WHEN A CAST of performers is able to wrench an experienced audience member from guffaws of unrestrainable mirth to real tears of sadness with the flick of a wrist – as life itself can do – you know you are in safe hands. Based on the biblical tale of Job and directed by Josias Dos Moleele, Jobe is on stage at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square until next week. And it is completely riveting.

From the wise use of the old traditional Jewish song, Shalom Aleichem which sets the mystical tone, to the mischievous character that skirts among the theatre seats and jostles the audiences before the work begins, played by Titus Mekgwe, there are frissons of contemporary values segued with mystery, quirkiness and magic that will haunt you.

The story you know from the bible itself. Jobe (Muzi Mthabela) is a bloke who has everything: a godfearing nature, a beautiful wife (Mogau Pauline Motlhatswi), clever children who attend an excellent school, wealth, the works. And then, one by one, God prevails to take these things from him. In this work, God’s messengers sometimes take the form of the Red Ants, and sometimes a group of three fantastically complex graces offering a blend of what material success looks like with ancestral customs.

It’s a magnificent play cast on humble precepts. While the set is skanky, at best, this fits into the madcap nature of the work that sees complex emotions vying with humour and difficult truths and a throne with a leopard skin as an edifice and altar. Very well cast and performed with a sense of urgency, it forces a comparison between the Book of Job  and the tragedy of Faustus, gives a strong moral line for you to go home with, and conveys the negative values of confusion and hypocrisy with a wise sense of choreographic timing to make you laugh with the demons, but keep you savvy to the narrative. Even if you only speak English.

Indeed, much of this work is written and articulated in a mix of South African languages and like the Market Theatre’s recent production of Nailed, it is made with such a strong understanding of story that very little is lost in its readability. Works of this calibre offer inroads into what the theatre future may look like in South Africa, and it is fabulous.

  • Jobe is adapted for stage by Teboho Sengoai and directed by Josias Dos Moleele. It is performed by Simpho Mathenjwa,Titus Mekgwe, Muzi Mthabela, Mogau Pauline Motlhatswi and Teboho Sengoai at the Auto & General Theatre on the Square in Sandton, until June 15. Call 011-883-8606.
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