DIANE DE BEER
Pictures: Neo MNtsoma
THE HOUSE OF TRUTH
PLAYWRIGHT: Siphiwo Mahala
PERFORMER: Sello Maake kaNcube
DIRECTOR: Vanessa Cooke
VENUE: Sandton Theatre on the Square
UNTIL November 18
It’s the perfect storm when the playwright, director and actor all come together this sweetly.
Telling stories from our past, especially in this country, reminds us of where we come from, what we have lost and how many lives were affected, often devastated by the laws in a land functioning for a handful of white people.
And while it takes us back to a dark past which we should never forget, that is not what this play is about. The focus is on Can Themba, a writer and raconteur of remarkable quality, a man who regales us with tales of his life and his longings in spite of his hardships, all the result purely of the colour of his skin.
But he soldiers on, thank goodness, or we wouldn’t have had any of his writing which is all pleasurable and a reminder of the creativity that is so much a part of this continent and adds to the richness of our cultural landscape from the past with much to learn for the present.
The writer/educator is craftily captured in Mahala’s text and it is amazing that this is his first play. It is cleverly put together in a way that illustrates the struggling writer who wanted nothing more than to be a teacher which was blocked in every conceivable way shattering his only hope for a future in his beloved country. And while battling to fight the good fight, a bottle of brandy looms ever larger.
It explains much about his personality but also his life and again reminds us that as in all these oppressive situations, survival is always tougher for those who have the ability to speak their minds – something Themba did with such flair and fire.
Maake kaNcube steps onto stage into a role that he obviously relishes and has refined in the time he has been touring with the production. It’s great that it is being afforded more than just a single run because it tells such a personable and enlightening story about our past and people that should be honoured and remembered.
In this remarkable actor’s hands, Themba comes alive in a way that is completely his own. There’s nothing straightforward about the performance which turns into a dance as he moves between the writer and the man that finds his stories all around him from the shebeens to the Sof’town streets. As a bonus, he also does a heart-warming rendition of Madiba perhaps the results of his earlier turn in Rivonia Trial.
There’s a strong beating heart with Cooke deftly using the solo performance in a way that is never static yet doesn’t feel choreographed which is always the dilemma in these kinds of performances.
Not with these two stalwarts. With Cooke’s experienced artistic vision and kaNcube’s performance skills, they do justice to Mahala’s invigorating script in a way that’s mesmerising and enthralling. One would have imagined that most of us would be as familiar with Themba as was possible, but this piece shows his life in a completely novel way – with many life lessons to boot.
Apart from stricter editing which would allow for a slightly shorter show, it’s a near perfect production and one that brings much joy – from performance to storytelling of a personal kind which we need much more of.
Can Themba’s voice is one that should be heard. And in this show, the volume is at its sharpest.