Drama Undermined not to be underestimated

Undermined not to be underestimated

The stage is black. Three silhouetted men emerge one after the other. There is no dialogue to begin with, but rather sounds of construction: digging, a jackhammer, a pick axe. It is not clear what you are watching at first, but Tara Notcutt’s Undermined unfolds into a captivating and telling story.

Undermined, Directed by Tara Notcutt, at the 2015 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The 2014 Standard Bank Ovation Award winner and Fringe World 2015 nominee for Best in Theatre tells the story of Madlebe; a story of hope and perseverance. (Photo: Sithasolwazi Kentane)

Undermined, Directed by Tara Notcutt, tells the story of Madlebe; a story of hope and perseverance.
(Photo: Sithasolwazi Kentane)

Undermined, which is based on a true story, follows Madlebe, a man from Mozambique who travels to South Africa to earn the money he thinks he needs to win his love’s hand in marriage.

The story is narrated by the three-member cast who all play Madlebe at different stages of his life. The production combines song, dance and mime to drive home the overwhelming emotion of the expatriate.

Through careful choreography, the cast portrays the train-rides, nights out drinking at the shisanyama, and work in the mine. With headlamps as their only props, they use garish physical gestures and facial expressions, eliciting hysterical laughter from the crowd.

Notcutt’s adaptation of the story is a refreshingly creative approach to physical theatre. She uses minimal props and scenery to highlight social issues such as xenophobia, discrimination against migrant workers, racism, and the exploitation of miners, which are still prevalent in contemporary South Africa.

A Mozambican is subjected to a more rigorous medical examination once his nationality is discovered, a white girl scrubs her arm yelling “ewwww, he touched me!” after bumping into a black man, and the top dogs in the mining world hatch exploitative plans to make more money at the expense of their workers.

Undermined is both hilarious and substantially moving, and keeps the audience riveted.

 

 

Princess Alice Hall

6 July, 11.30am

Leah Solomon

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