The acclaimed hit docu-drama Born in the RSA has been revived to commemorate the 20 year passing of theatre legend, Barney Simon.
Directed by the multi-talented Thoko Ntshinga, the original Thenjiwe, this rendition of Born in the RSA has lived up to the one-of-a-kind masterpiece it was over thirty years ago. Not only is it a testament of the past, but it is a play that highlights poignant issues that still hold relevance in present day South Africa.
Being transported back to the days of heightened Apartheid and the 1985 state of emergency, the play is a stark reminder to not trivialise the injustices of apartheid, that democracy and liberation are new which still require nurturing, and to continue to instil a spirit of togetherness among South Africans.
Upon entering the theatre, one is confronted with a set of oblong blocks covered in a mesh of newspaper prints. The design is simple yet effective. It is a replica of the ‘living newspaper’ which was a conceptual piece used in the original production. The simplicity works to its advantage and encourages the audience members to make use of their imagination – a task made easy through the strength and energy that permeates from the actors throughout.
We are then introduced to the rest of the hodgepodge cast members – each different yet intertwined with one another through the use of several, interlocking monologues. A unanimous agreement among theatre-goers about plays that rely heavily upon monologue is that they become monotonous very quickly. Born in the RSA manages to evade this belief with its relaxed reminiscing combined with the transformative in-the-moment scenes that create a riveting performance.
While the performances by each cast member can only be described as exemplary, the award-winning actress Faniswa Yisa is certainly one to watch out for. Playing the resilient Thenjiwe Bono, her performances are infused with an unending passion. One such scene includes a stand-off between Thenjiwe and a low-life thug of a cop, where she envisions killing the man with his own rifle. Complete with her burning desire to end the man’s life and the accompanying ‘bam bam bam’ sound effects of a ricocheting gun, this scene certainly leaves an imprint long after the play ends.
During a time when cruel injustices formed part of everyday life, vengeance occurs solely in the minds of some victims – often being the only means to envisage a counter attack. Such is the case for Zack – mellow, sweet Zack who’s unable to comprehend the brutalities done onto the young Dumisani. Upon walking past a group of young, white children playing during break time, Zack with bat in hand, imagines himself as the ‘black king kong that everyone expects him to be’ – cracking the skulls of innocent school children. An astounding performance by Dobsy Madotyeni, the scene is a show of what a person is capable of doing once having reached a breaking point.
Born in the RSA is certainly a not-to-be-missed production, not only casting light on a dark time in our history but also portraying it in a flawless, raw fashion.