By Anoka Latchmiah
Whistleblowers, directed by Rob Murray and Quintjin Relow, is a production that speaks to the power of theatre through an enthusiatic cast and scintillating scoring. The title is a carefully measured metaphor that intertwines the narrative of young women playing on the field and their personal experiences of “blowing the whistle” on gender based violence in South Africa.
The play begins with a hockey match between two rival teams, The Whistleblowers and the Redcaps. Here, the match is a metaphor for the lives of the players and the coach.
The first subject of the metaphor is that of the coach of The Whistleblowers. His controlling behaviour recurs throughout the play and illustrates that the players have no sense of agency. At the blow of the whistle, they take his orders.
The Redcaps use their unfair advantage to manipulate the results of the game, as well as their relationship with The Whistleblowers.
A storyline of assault emerges and is developed throughout the play. One scene meticulously depicts how the media, and consequently society, view assault victims, who are often blamed or pubished for the wrong done to them. To illustrate this point, a reporter asks one of the players whether they would have stood a better chance against the Redcaps if they wore something more revealing.
A motif that runs throughout the play is that of unison. There is unison between the hockey players as well as unison amongst women who relate to the themes implored in the play. They bang their hockey sticks, dance, run and fall together in a cataclysmic reclamation of the ‘game’.
In every instance where the players attempt to defend themselves, on and off the pitch, they are met with resistance. The pushback from their coach, the rival team, and media personnel reflects a reality for women in South Africa and across the world: you will remain powerless no matter how hard you fight against it.
Ultimately, the commitment of the performers is as impressive as it is spine-chilling. They will scream until their lungs give out, blowing the whistle on the global reality of gender-based violence. Whistleblowers is showing at the Victoria Girls High School Gymnasium from 22 to 26 June.