Timeless play about truth

2009-04-14 00:00

ACTOR and playwright Rajesh Gopie believes that the Indian community has many stories to tell and a voice which needs to be heard on the country’s theatre stages.

It’s why he put pen to paper and wrote his critically acclaimed play, Out of Bounds, which can be seen at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Hexagon Theatre in Pietermaritzburg from tomorrow.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Gopie’s first performance of the one-man play at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg.

Set in eighties South Africa, it tells the story of Lal, a young boy growing up in Inanda and Phoenix, where he lives with his parents, brothers and sisters, cousins, grandmother, uncles and aunts — all under one roof.

As we follow Lal’s trials and tribulations in life, we experience a time in South Africa’s history when, as Gopie points out, being an Indian was anything but cool. But Out of Bounds is far more than just a play about Indian culture. It embraces all people who have ever asked themselves who they are and where they come from.

Asked what had inspired the work, Gopie said: “As a theatre artist, I felt there was a story to be told, an Indian voice that should be heard. The play is not overtly political, although politics cannot be ignored entirely. Rather it’s a real family story. I think people have been waiting a long time to hear this kind of truth from this community.”

And it seems that the actor isn’t tired of performing in the play, which boasts 28 different characters. “It’s timeless — it’s a play about truth, the theme is about truth, and that axe comes right through the flesh down to the bone.”

Away from the stage, the actor, who grew up in Clare Estate, Durban, has enjoyed success on both the small and big screen, appearing in Roger Spotteswood’s (director of Tomorrow Never Dies) Rwandan drama, Shake Hands With the Devil; in Shamim Sarif’s film World Unseen alongside international stars, Lisa Ray and Nandana Sen; and as the baddie — the bookie, Sanjay Gupter — in Hansie, the film about South African cricketer Hansie Cronje. He can also currently be seen on SABC3 in the television series, Stellenbosch.

It’s a long way away from his early days in protest theatre, but Gopie believes that whatever the role, an actor needs to be willing to subvert his own ego and to embrace the character he plays. “I love acting and I’m always thinking about what I can bring to the character,” he said. “Acting is not about being good looking but about knowing your craft.”

Asked what new works he had in the pipeline, Gopie said he had written South Africa’s first ever Indian musical, Mr G Is In The ’ouse, which will be staged at the Old Mutual Theatre in the Square in Johannesburg in October.

“It’s a fantastical story about God sending Mahatma Gandhi to earth to help someone, but it’s not a Bollywood spectacle,” he said, adding that he was looking for talented Indian singers, who can act, to audition. Gopie is also working on a new play about an Indian prostitute and a Zimbawean refugee who share a small corner of a street in Chatsworth.

• Out of Bounds can be seen at 7.30 pm, April 15 to April 18 and April 22 to April 25. Special schools’ performances will also take place during the run. To book phone 033 260 5537.

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