(as in, things people perform on.)
We have been to the theatre three times in eight days – an astonishing increase on our normal pattern. We’ve already commented on Woza Albert! at the magnificent Soweto Theatre – a brilliantly performed/written/executed piece of theatre. But my personal appreciation was ever so slightly tinged when I subsequently read the script, and discovered that what we had witnessed was a move for move re-creation of the original 1980 production, even down to the exact repeat of those costumes and set. Not museum theatre, for it had a vitality and energy of its own, but even so…
Two nights ago we went to Johannesburg’s world-famous Market Theatre (where Woza Albert! originated) to see The Meeting, concerning the fictional encounter between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. We had been looking forward to it, but I was ill, Val had had a frustrating day struggling with work, and we were both exhausted. A wordy play which we strained to hear clearly proved a trial, and even though we were seated on the front row of their small studio theatre, we found it hard to keep our heads up.
And then, last night we went to the tiny POPArt theatre in Johannesburg’s trendy Maboneng district, old mining warehouses converted into restaurants, studios, loft apartments… We saw Isithunzi, another two-man play, which focused on the utterly appalling “Reitz Four” incident. It resembled Woza Albert!, being a thrilling, intense piece of physical theatre. It too dealt with, and showed, the tension between black and white – you can’t get away from that in South Africa – but it had a vibrancy, an urgency, an exhilaration in the power of theatre that was bang up to date.
Bewilderingly, we were two out of an audience of three. As I recall it – painfully! – the convention is that if the actors outnumber the audience, they are entitled to call the show off, so I guess we only just made it. But apart from the fact that this deserved to be seen by a far wider audience, in a way this only added to the sense of privilege we felt. This was the best of the lot.