There are rare moments in life when the stars align in the perfect way, turning something good into something extraordinary. For me, that moment was watching Woza Albert, at this point in time. The political play has always been an important commentary on the state of Apartheid in South Africa, but in the current political climate, the play’s significance has resurfaced in an incredible way.
Before watching the show I, along with the rest of South Africa, was getting angry and frustrated at the parliamentary debate to remove President Zuma from office. One of the most poignant points for me was the question of whether this was the type of government so many (ANC politicians included) fought for during the tyranny of Apartheid. This mindset allowed me to look at the story from a new perspective.
Woza Albert was first performed in 1983 as a form of protest art. It imagines what would happen if Morena (Jesus) came to South Africa during Apartheid. Actors Sizwesandile Mnisi and Oarabile Ditsele play multiple characters who react to Morena’s coming. Some are excited and hopeful, others cynical and unimpressed, and all of them depict the absolutely horrible and difficult lives black people had to endure.
Being an important, classic play with heavy subject matter, Mnisi and Ditsele had a heavy responsibility to do this play justice. They did so much more than that. Rather than being one long, continuous guilt trip, the actors managed to illustrate powerfully how terrible life was for black South Africans and ease the audience’s tension with humorous moments. These moments, however, did not undermine the significance of the play at all. This is a masterful achievement for Mnisi and Ditsele. They are absolutely magnificent.
Not only to they embody various characters fully and sincerely, but they also do all the sound effects, and their stage presence is filled with such passion and energy. Everything from their impersonations to their facial expressions are done to the fullest. They are able to portray pain and agony one minute, and amusement the next. They are a huge part of what makes the play so brilliant.
The last scene of the play sees Morena going through a graveyard and raising important struggle heroes, including Albert Luthuli, Lillian Ngoyi, Chris Hani and Steve Biko. This is where a new reading of the play occurs for me. What if, like Morena, these heroes came back to South Africa, as it is now. How would they react to the current state of the government?
When Thursday 6 April – Friday 22 April 2016 at 11 am or 7 pm
Where Baxter Theatre, Main Road, Rondebosch
Cost R100 at Computicket
Contact +27 21 685 7880, www.baxter.co.za
Photography courtesy Baxter Theatre