By Keren Banza
The pepper spray in my pocket is a reminder of how we continue to fail women. Of how we meander through life with the constant scent of fear as a company. Text Me When You Arrive is a potent piece on surviving as a woman in South Africa.
The production, directed by Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi, is written and performed by Aaliyah Matintela, Thulisile Nduvane and Sibahle Mangena. Framed through the lens of a Youtube channel, these three ladies advise women on ‘rules’ to help navigate the impossible mission of “not getting raped and killed”. These ‘rules’ have been created by rape culture, patriarchy and social media.
By having minimal props, the actresses allow themselves to inhabit multiple characters, often blurring the lines between portraying men and monsters. Using slick choreography and a sharp, engaging script, they transport us to various scenarios and settings. At Patriarchy High, young boys are indoctrinated in the ways of the alpha male. We watch a taxi driver persistently ask for a woman’s number until she relents.
Not only do the performers pour emotion into every line, they also manifest them through movement, mimicking the motions of predators as they hunt for their next victim. The production keeps you entertained with its humour, but the daunting message behind each scene prompts further reflection.
Satire is another impactful element of the play. We are presented with a ‘rule’ and then shown how it holds up in reality. The satire lies in how the rules will never work as the scenes are frighteningly accurate. Women must protect themselves without hurting men’s feelings. “Always embrace the catcall,” and “Be polite and kind in an awkward situation.” Just accept that “boys will be boys.” The result is always the same. Rejection, civility or silence are seen as an invitation for violation and death. There is no winning.
As gender-based violence continues to plague the world, productions like Text Me When You Arrive are vital reminders to not to accept it as the norm. Perhaps someday, I will be able to leave my pepper spray at home.
Text Me When You Arrive is on at the Monument’s B2 Arena until 28 June.