Black … and white

2007-11-19 00:00

BEN Voss (of Black and Green Mamba fame) has teamed up with top director Janice Honeyman for this show, which had a short run at the Hexagon last week. Voss wrote the script, both witty and poignant in parts, and for the entire play is in character as Beauty Ramapelepele, newly crowned Business Woman of the Year for her fabric and design company.

Beauty started life as a domestic worker, but is now part of a wealthy elite, about to see her daughter married to a white man, with a swanky wedding at the Westcliff Hotel in Johannesburg. Her penthouse has windows all round so that she can keep an eye on the neighbours, and her best friend is Zanele Mbeki. Beauty has got it made.

Voss, who is a fine actor, gives a terrific performance as Beauty - a character he seems keen to develop as an alter ego, along the lines of Pieter-Dirk Uys's Evita. She is a member of a nouveau riche elite, dealing with the issues that come up in those circles - race, class, money, men, success and so on.

The set is attractively put together, as it should be for a successful designer, and a lot of talent is on display in this

production.

But - and it is a big but - for me, a white man in character as a black woman is problematic. I have had reservations ever since I first heard about Beauty and the B.E.E., and seeing the show has not put them to rest. The audience was almost all white on the night I was at the Hexagon, and it seems unlikely that there would be an appeal to black theatre-goers, a constituency that surely ought to be encouraged. Beauty is very much a white man's version of a black woman, and it would be interesting to know whether any black actress would be prepared to perform Voss's script - the man-in-drag aspect adds little to the piece other than curiosity value. Possibly my reaction is over-sensitive, but these are tricky areas in this country at this time.

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