Soapies and the kasi reality

2011-07-15 15:03

So, what’s new? So What’s New? is what’s new at The Market Theatre.

With the mercury dropping to devilish lows the other evening, I dragged my freezing bones to The Market hoping to discover something novel in the play that would warm my heart.

After all, that’s what theatre is supposed to do. It’s supposed to heal us, the audience, when we are feeling down, to warm up our hearts and souls by either making us laugh or sob at seeing our sorry lives portrayed perfectly on stage.

That’s what, as a child of the arts, attracts me to the theatre – a convincing portrayal of real-life characters. The opening scene of So What’s New? had me wondering if I should have heeded my heart’s desire to just head straight home, fix myself a stiff drink, slip under the covers with a good book and wait for sleep to carry me to dreamland.

I like Andrea Dondolo and I think she’s one of the most gifted performers in Mzansi-hood. But that long opening scene of her moving around the house dusting furniture before sitting down to catch a soapie on TV, reminded me why most men prefer a drink with the boys at the pub after work to being home early. Women and soapies, ah!

But with hindsight, I guess the reason I hate that particular scene is that Dondolo does it so perfectly, you know. That irritating womanly habit of speaking to someone with both eyes fixed on the telly and exclaiming out loud while watching as if the world revolves around the lousy soapies they watch.

Ah, I guess that’s the magic of theatre then. It’s supposed to play emotional games with you, sway your heart this way, and just when you begin to accept that things are like that, then sway you in another direction altogether.

So What’s New? is a comedy that revolves around the lives of three kasi women and a teen. Now if you have ever lived ekasi, you will indentify with these four characters.

One is a streetwise sister who survives by selling nyaope and other illicit drugs; another is a shebeen queen battling to raise an outspoken teenager who is full of opinions and tantrums; while the third is a fashion-conscious single mum who drowns her frustrations of being manless and solo-parenting in ­cider.

The play, written by Fatima Dike, was originally directed by Barney Simon. But the hands of time have seen up-and-coming young director Princess Mhlongo take over the reins with an impressive cast of Dondolo, Thuli Thabethe, Sibulele Gcilitshana and new kid on the block, Zimkhitha Kumbaca, to steer.

The shebeen is their central meeting point, where they discuss their frustrations with men, as well as maintaining a balance between morality and surviving in a world where lack of money relegates one to a doomed life. Also, the women are forced to deal with issues affecting a world that is changing fast.

It’s a story which, on any given day, plays itself out in shebeens and taverns throughout the kasis of South Africa. But what makes it even more convincing is the unsophisticated script which truly depicts how real South Africans speak when they are unwinding with a drink after a long day of running the rat race.

But just as in real life, I disliked the obsession with soapies and how they seem to have become the only escape for most women.

Maybe Mhlongo would have done well to cast one of her performers as a bookworm, thus helping to break the stereotype that blacks, especially women, don’t read. That would have been something new.

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