Review by SONIA SAJJABI
Silence. Darkness. No street lights. The walk in the rain up the hill to PJs feels desolate.
A five-minute wait outside the theatre doors that feels much longer. Finally, we – an audience of three – are let in. Inside, the same darkness, the same silence.
On stage, two figures in white, the cloth covering their faces shining through the gloom, clothing scattered around their feet.
Bhekani Shabalala and Bongani Mbatha, battle-scarred and aged before their time by violent conflict, slowly reveal themselves as Dumi and Vuyo, who create a marriage between the past and the present. Dumi conjures the past, sadness spilling through his words, helplessness in his actions.
One blind, the other mute, they conjure an intriguing range of emotions as sound and lighting segue to brilliantly convey their message.
As someone who doesn’t speak Zulu, I was dismayed when the dialogue shifted from English, thinking I would lose the plot. But good theatre is much more than text. Communication is also in the action, expression, and lighting even. Dismay turned to relief as these superb actors overcame language barriers, even bringing me to laughter, leaving none of us isolated.
This comedy balanced the sorrow inherent in a story about childhood trauma and strained bonds amidst the bloodshed that dogs KwaZulu-Natal.
Yet beyond the geographic specificity of the play, it has a universality that resonates with similar emotional experiences in your own life. Just as silence and darkness accompanied me through the rain, so will they accompany you through this story of ZemQadini.