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TAPPING HEARTS (article first published : 2006-04-20)

The work of award winning Gauteng-based writer/director Julian Seleke Mokoto has been seen before in Durban with Shattered Dreams in 2003 and Unfaithful Woman in 2004, the latter attracting much critical acclaim when it appeared on the Playhouse Company’s Women’s Arts Festival.

Julian Seleke Mokoto’s work is well-written and excellently directed, with clear-cut thought patterns and fine performances from his cast. It invariably displays a considerable command of moods as well as a depth of feelings and emotion all mixed with a strong input of humour, where appropriate.

Running in the Playhouse Loft until Sunday, his latest play, Tapping Hearts, is no exception and is well worth a visit. Tapping Hearts was inspired by Julian Seleke Mokoto’s belief that there were many stories to be told by women. Despite being of the opposite sex, he decided to write it himself. The result is a piece that, while extremely derogatory to the male sex, also presents a different side to this talented man, proving a depth of compassion, observation and understanding of women’s issues.

Looking to place his story where women meet as a matter of course – not in a bar, club or gym – Julian Seleke Mokoto settled on a tap dance studio. Here we meet five feisty ladies. The classes are run by the robust butch Tebogo (Lindiwe Ndlovu) who has scant patience for her cleaner, the monosyllabic Noma (Sibongile Nkosi). Tebogo’s pupils are three sassy, sophisticated ladies who consider themselves "AmaTriple S!" (Single, Successful and Self- Sufficient). They are the tall and elegant Carol (Priscilla Mphangoa), the vivacious recently-promoted CEO Ayanda (Molobane Mbatha) and the gentler moderator Tracey (Ncebakazi Thintsila). From their vigorous and cheerful entrance, each in turn produces finely-drawn individual characters.

The scenario of a tap dance class enables the action to take place in and out of instruction time, allowing the banter between the women to extend into discussions on how they’ve had enough of the male species in general! The “instruction” part of it produces some energetic tap that would give the Stomp performers a run for their money! Either light as a feather or sturdy and forceful, these ladies can tap!

There is much subtle humour and I would have liked the opportunity to see the show a second time to appreciate this more. One ironic example is that the “transport problem” often cited (and invariably correctly so) as an excuse for being late on duty for large numbers of the workforce is now catapulted into a higher echelon of society where the socialite ladies are late for class because their fancy, expensive vehicles have been stuck in a traffic jam!

Looking around me at the male members of the audience, it seemed as if many of Julian Seleke Mokoto’s messages had hit home but the entertaining and compelling energy of the play along with its considerable input of humour had lessened the accusatory barbs. It’s not all anti-male, though – there is a moment when Carol questions whether she really does want to be “self-sufficient”. In the end, it’s all about survival of the individual and the cast close one of the final scenes with a tap routine of thundering intensity. The play also includes much song and one of the highlights is a beautiful quintet with Sibongile Nkosi’s powerful contralto to the fore.

Presented by Johannesburg’s Abangani Theatre Group, the 60-minute Tapping Hearts runs in the Playhouse Loft until Sunday at 19h00. Tickets R40 booked through Computicket. There is an age restriction of 14 as the material is of an adult nature! – Caroline Smart




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