Thursday, July 26, 2012

Out and About: The Baxter Theatre: Worst of Both Worlds

I could quickly see why this play, Worst of Both Worlds, written and directed by Bulelani Mabutyana and starring Lubabalo Nontwana and Thando Suselo were the winners of the Zabalaza Theatre Festival for 2012.  Though both young actors (21 and 19) - they delivered a remarkable performance in this story of a girl who is abducted and trafficked at a young age, growing up under slavery, abuse and prostitution.  

I was led down the road of innocence in a town - Khayelitsha, where a young Xhosa girl's life is dramatically changed from a life of song and laughter, to abduction, abuse and prostitution.  I sat riveted in my seat as I felt my emotions rise and fall:  laughter, horror, pain, empathy, even anger.  I took offense at the violence and language of the child traffickers.  And yet hoped with her as she attempted to escape from those who would enslave her.  I wept with her when she found her family and then the subsequent sadness and sense of loss.
Though I have seen various productions at different theatres, none has touched me to my core as this one did.  Child trafficking is never a comfortable subject, and this production did nothing to hide its destruction.  And even with the humour which at times almost seemed uncomfortable, out of place - there was a grim reminder of the reality of the situation in our country and many others.  

Both Lubabalo and Thando, transformed into a multitude of characters, through changes in lighting, voice and mannerisms in a blink of an eye while never physically changing their appearance (they wore very simple clothing that you eventually didn't even notice, their performance was so gripping).  A simple set of a single table and chair was transformed before me with clever and effective lighting and some unusual changes in position.  I love well designed beautiful sets - pretty things and yet, what they achieved was beyond paint and canvas.  

After the performance we were privileged to be invited to the the Baxter Restaurant and while we were there I had the opportunity to chat to the writer and director of Worst of Both WorldsBulelani Mabutyana.  I asked him why he had chosen this specific topic and what I discovered is that he had personally lost his cousin in a similar way and some of his close friends too.  And then it really made me realise why there was so much depth and meaning to so much of what I had seen.    I find his own story, made this production even more meaningful to me!  How someone could take so much of what he had been through and present it to us, the audience. What a remarkable man, writer and director!

Worst of Both Worlds will be performed at the Baxter Theatre in the Golden Arrow Studio for the next two weeks from the 24th July to 4th of August at 7pm.   And if you book on a Friday night you can buy your ticket and have a meal at the Baxter Restaurant for only R100 per person.

This is not suitable for children under 13 and with good reason.  The language of the child traffickers and though a fair amount of symbolism is used, the reality is that the issues that are being presented are not sugar coated or to be made to look pretty but rather a stark reality.

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