By: Ayabonga Ngoma
SABloggers was invited to the media opening night for the re-staging of Matsemela Manaka’s Egoli as part of their 40th anniversary of The Market Theatre in Newtown. The play looks at the lives of migrant mine workers in apartheid South Africa and how despite being the force behind building the ‘City of Gold’ they can’t seem to escape poverty, racial discrimination, classism and lack of benefit from the gains of capitalism.
The cast was directed Phala Ookeditse Phala and mentored by Makhaola Siyanda Ndebele who both did an astounding job in putting together this gem of reality and flashbacks to the stage almost effortlessly.
Egoli is being showcased in the Laager Theatre which has a two storey 360 stage, which allowed the play to go wherever it felt and keep the audience anticipating. As the guests walked in we were met with the actors already in character working in the mine and singing freedom songs. The sound effects of drilling into rock and explosions mixed with low lighting gave a kind of uncomfortable sense of being underground. This set the expectation of precise sound mixing and editing throughout the play which lent itself to the story on show.
Apart from the sound and lighting which enhanced the storytelling, what really stood out was how exceptional the all black cast (led by the brilliant Hamilton Dlamini and show stealing Lebohang Motaung) was in executing the story spoken in a mixture of Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho and Afrikaans. Most of the actors played multiple characters (even a capitalist white Afrikaner mine owner) to bring about the layers of the story which was told through scenes that range from realistic present day experiences to dream sequences, mimed working scenes and flashbacks.
A scene that blew me away was a flashback to when two of the characters were being chased by apartheid police after breaking out of prison. The direction and performance in this scene felt so realistic even though most of it was mimed. I really felt like I was right there with them.
Nothing is held back in this production. Intricate and lucid scenes; vulgarity which is to be expected of such an environment and some rather uncomfortable moments which can lead any light-hearted audience member to gag.
A must see for lovers of theatre and performance. It’s also an important piece as the commentary around racial inequalities and imagined lives of miners (for some has not changed to this day) is necessary story to be told and retold.
Egoli is currently showing at the Market Theatre until January 31st. Please make time to go see it. You will laugh, cringe, shed a tear and challenge your thinking on some of the issues raised.
Check out http://markettheatre.co.za/shows/watch/egoli for more info & bookings.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a thespian or theatre guru but these theatre review series serves as to highlight the great work being done at the Market Theatre (and any other theatre that invites me) so as to get fellow South Africans to watch amazing, rich stories by our own talented people.
Ayabonga is just a small town boy, livin’ in Johustleburg. Governed by music. An extroverted introvert. Curious mind, but never nosy. Engineer who is a wannabe creative. Find him on Twitter: @Ayab0nga