SAY THE WORD ‘tokoloshe’ and you will have people quivering in their boots for generations. But relieve that scary sprite of his evil associations and you open a rich vein of narrative possibilities that teases open everything from fake news to bullying, fah-fee rhetoric to face time with the folks in another planet. This is what the team behind Tiny the Tokoloshe, a brand new South African play for children, has achieved.
Tiny (Quinton Manning) is a very large tokoloshe, you see, and it is his mission to dispossess folks of their fear of him and his kind. It’s important that the children in the world learn to understand that the tokoloshe’s job is to weave dreams rather than to star in them, to bring good thoughts rather than horrible ones. Only the tokoloshe in question is a bit of a clumsy bloke, who breaks important tokoloshe protocol, by putting his furry foot in it, without meaning to do so.
It’s a complicated story which makes for other stories to exist within its folds. Playing with culture and everything from township dynamics and birthday parties to Herman Charles Bosman references, the work is heavily detailed and easy on the eye. It is not suitable for very young children, however, because of its length and its cross-pollination of complex ideas and its unabashed use of language that does not patronise young intellects, but may be out of the ken of your three year old.
But for bigger children — over the age of eight — this is the kind of play the industry thirsts for. There is no kow-towing to western traditions of fairy tales here: the work is brash and fresh and full of real life associations that draw from Tembisa idioms and Sandton dialects. It’s about one-upmanship and the need to fit in with the A-team as it is a complete delight to watch and hear, featuring rap that flies and a sense of storytelling that matters.
- Tiny the Tokoloshe is devised by Néka da Costa in collaboration with the cast. It is directed by Néka da Costa and performed by Lesego Chabedi, Quinton Manning, Sibusisu Mkhize and Nyeleti Ndubane, and features design and professional input by Luke Draper (lighting), Sibusisu Mkhize (music), Amy-Sue Lithgow (set and costumes), Alyssa Harrison (production management) and Harry Faulkner (stage management). It performs at the Studio Theatre, Montecasino complex in Fourways until September 29.