A street child takes each audience member by the hand for a walk through different tableaux on the theme of exploitation. The audience is gripped by fear from beginning to end. They don’t get anything they can expect, losing all confidence.
But there are other productions on the programme that may make you shift from one buttock to the other. They will make you sweat, while trying to avoid looking at the stage but at the same time being unable to look away. They will make you wonder, “Why did I come to see this play?” − and why did you?
“Because theatre is about putting the pains and suffering on stage,” says Asanda Phewa, the director of A Face Like Mine. We watch it to purge ourselves, “to understand the pain in order to change”.
She believes South African theatre has to be challenging for the audience to watch because “we live in a country where theatre has a great role in facilitating the transitions of our history”.
Phewa has seen some audience members walk out of her show before it ends. She says that while it wasn’t her intention to make them feel uncomfortable, she doesn’t mind if that is “what it takes to make changes happen”.
Jerry Pooe, the director of It’s a Man’s World, deliberately provokes his audience. “We don’t confront issues in real life, we run away, especially men,” he explains. “Theatre is here to make us face and react to what we are running away from.”
His play is about men and their violence: “paedophilia” and “rape” are shouted into the audience’s face, with threatening pointed fingers. Alcohol is constantly present on stage, like a silent actor. For Pooe, if the audience feels uncomfortable, it is a positive: “It is a way of pouring out the frustrations and the pain.”
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