Some people should be fired from their jobs. Put in little tomato soup cans and shelved in retirement homes that haven’t been built yet. Maybe that home should be somewhere on Long Street. Where we can have Mahala curate bingo night for the fallen elite of South Africa’s traditional art institutions. Yes we should do it. If ever such a place were to be built I would submit Lindiwe Bukhosini’s name for admission before you can say Hack the arts.
She has light a skin complexion and speaks with an understated British like accent in the same manner as James Baldwin. By the way she is also the CEO of the Playhouse and perhaps writing about her in this vein will not fare well for future accreditation requests. The latest in her long list of indiscretions is the failure to bring Neil Coppen or more specifically to bring his latest play Abnormal Loads onto the Durban stage. I was one of the few Durbanites at this year’s National Arts festival that were lucky to see it. Because of the sold out status of the show tickets were hard to come by. Thank god for media accreditation and saying things like “I also write for Mahala”, just to sign off on the deal.
After arriving half an hour early I made my way into my seat and five minutes in I was already irked by the sound of chit chat and people asking “what row is this”. And on more than one occasion I almost got up from my seat and made my way to the bar downstairs. And had it not been for a big white lady who sat in anticipation next to me, with pen and paper in her hand I could well have left. But she looked at me with that “I am not getting up look” and so I was forced to relegate the thought of getting up to the back of my mind and resign myself to my seat and wait. And 15 minutes into the show I was glad I had outlasted the flickering sound of poor Zulu translations that had echoed throughout the auditorium as we waited for the start.
And by the end I was begging to understand why Coppen had been listed as amongst South African theatre’s finds of the decade. Awarding him the Standard Bank young artist of the year award was certainly not a disservice. Abnormal Loads is a structural triumph in an medium that is often infested by creative repetition. The story archs around Vincent a partial minded man in his thirties who has practically underachieved in every aspect of life. Brilliantly executed by Mothusi Magona who manages to give us close ups on stage. He gives us an insightful caricature of a man constantly questioning his past, self loathing and bitter with lack of poise. Perhaps some inquiry should be made about Vincent’s Jewishness.
As the story progresses we are confronted with a man who has a back-story that is littered with being tempered with. Black and raised into a white family by Moira Bashford who seems to memorise every intricate detail of the family’s history including shoes sizes and tea cups, but as Vincent points out never remembers the important things. Played by Alison Cassels, Moira is cultured in the tradition of old British like manners. And perhaps it’s those roots that make her not want to reveal the truth about Vincent’s past and so she in turn swallows the bitterness. What makes the play most appealing perhaps is the fact that it is a well manifested creative vision. It tackles social prejudice and race relations without being bogged down by intellectual utopia. The confident and intelligent use of space and lighting is almost like seeing a film without compromising the intimacy of the stage. The nature of script ensures that the play is always surging forward even in the quite moments. The constant mobility on and of the set itself makes the audience feel as if they are part of the plot. Making small decisions without disturbing the overall narrative. Abnormal loads does equally well as source material for a mastercalss on creative complexity or a conversation starter on a blind date.