Miss Magarida. As you sit in her classroom being verbally abused, an absurd question might start running through your mind: “Why couldn’t Miss Magarida have been my school teacher?”
Patricia Boyer performs in Miss Margarida’s Way at The Hangar, Grahamstown, 10 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. This allegory about totalitarianism features a comically aggressive teacher Miss Margarida who takes out her frustration on her seventh grade biology class. Photo: CuePix / Jane Berg.
We initially aimed to provide a well-informed review of Miss Magarida’s Way as critical audience members. In this classroom, however, you are not an audience member. You are an uninformed Grade 7 pupil under the obsessive, tyrannical control of Miss Magarida (Patricia Boyer) – and you had better not forget it.
Hypersexual and frustrated, Miss Margarida minces around the stage, terrorising the audience. “If there’s one thing Miss Margarida does not tolerate,” she menaces, “it’s disobedience.” And indeed, halfway through the performance the audience is dutifully answering her questionable maths problems and singing on command.
As such, it’s an absorbing drama that explores the themes of social power and totalitarianism through absurd storytelling, inappropriate acting, and some uncomfortable interactivity. Miss Magarida gazes into our eyes, forces us to chant to her Magarida Way anthem, interrogates us on our masturbation patterns, and directly asks a pupil, “Why don’t you play with your thingy?” It raises an important question: do we actually love this kind of theatre, or are we all blatantly ignoring the obvious discomfort it induces?
The production requires an audience who are open to actively participate, and who have the palate for Magarida’s displays of sexual frustration. At one point, during a strange transition into a sexual monster, Miss Magarida is lost in a sensual and erotic moment with a skeleton used for Biology class. (Should it be mentioned here that this production was banned and then censored in Brazil?)
Funny, quirky and overthe-top, Miss Margarida’s Way is excellently performed by the extravagant Boyer, who, in turns, seduces, disciplines, and dominates her pupils. Under the surface, however, it’s also a subtle look into the construction of authority and power. It never ceases to be intriguing.
Luyanda Mahlinza and Kerstin Hall
Cue student reporters
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