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SHATTERED DREAMS (article first published : 2004-07-30)

The poster says it all. A young girl cringes in distress. The reason? Her once-loving and easygoing father loses his job and becomes a megalomaniac, turning her gentle and adoring mother into a submissive bundle of nerves. In his play, Shattered Dreams which is running in The Playhouse Loft and funded by the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Johannesburg-based director/playwright Julian Seleke-Mokoto turns a harsh spotlight onto the effect that relationship break-ups have on young people.

Hardly the choice for an evening’s entertainment, you might think. You would be wrong. Like Pieter-Dirk Uys, Julian Seleke-Mokoto punches home his strong social message robustly mixed with a strong dollop of humour. In this case, it’s an awareness of women abuse and domestic violence but, as with Pieter-Dirk, Julian is careful to weave into the plot the fact that there is always someone to turn to. Ironically, as it turns out, the young girl is set on becoming a social worker so that she can contribute to making a better life for many young people.

We last saw one of Julian’s works, The Last Mile, in Durban at the BAT Centre some years back and I was impressed then at his capacity to script around a sensitive social issue and present a riveting dramatic production. His Mary … the unfaithful woman is soon to be seen on the Women’s Art Festival at the Playhouse.

For any man brought up in the cultural understanding that he should be the breadwinner and caretaker of his family, the loss of a regular job and prestige as well as standing in the community and home environment is an extremely difficult situation to accept. Like a cancer, the lack of self-worth can spread until it morphs into jealousy, unfounded suspicions and the desperate need to cry: “I am still someone of importance”.

As the father, Duma Mnembe excellently handles the transition from joviality to antagonistic insecurity. Betty Maretene is consistently good in her role as the mother who cannot understand the sudden turnaround in her husband. Thakane Matoni provides most of the humour as the lager-loving aunt but is also the catalyst with the power to stand up to her brother. Sbongile Genu brings an engaging charm to the role of the young girl who finds herself terrified to live in her own home environment. It is to her that the title refers. When she was abducted by hooligans four years previously, her dreams of becoming a high school beauty queen were shattered but she survived the ordeal. This second shattering of her dreams, she may not survive.

Tonight’s audience was highly appreciative, often vocalising suggestions to the cast. When the mother cried in despair: “What am I to do?”, the immediate response from someone near me was “Divorce!” I hope that this production is able to reach further afield into the community to those who desperately need its message.

A few quibbles. The floral arrangements look odd - perhaps a few thriving potplants replaced by neglected ones as the home environment disintegrates might be more appropriate. The set is too tidy and doesn’t look lived in – a bit of clutter could provide a further irritation for the father to impose his will.

Otherwise, this Johannesburg-based production is well worth seeing with an excellent performance from each and every member of the cast.

Shattered Dreams runs in the Playhouse Loft for a short season from July 29 to August 1 at 19h30. Bookings are advised to avoid disappointment from the Playhouse Box office on 031 369 9444 or visit www.computicket.com – Caroline Smart




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