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ISIGCINO NGESAMI (article first published : 2004-09-25)

Recently, I attended a production of up-and-coming director Skhumbuzo Nseleís adaptation of Isigcino Ngesami, SG Zuluís setwork for grade 12ís. Artist Productions presentation for learners was supported by the National Arts Council, Isolezwe and the Stable Theatre.

Nsele won the Best Newcomer (Actor) award in the 2003/2004 Durban Theatre Awards and is fast being recognising as one of Durbanís rising young stars in the theatre world. I was impressed with his handling of the production. Although the dialogue was in isiZulu and I wasnít able to follow it in detail, he directed his cast well and placed them on the stage to best effect.

Presented at the Stable Theatre where audiences have to shut out the noise of passing traffic and trains, the show suffered from an imbalance of sound. Some of the performers were miked and some not and the band, placed at the side of the stage, often drowned out the performers.

The play deals with prejudice Ė in this case, a fatherís objection to the fact that the young man his beloved daughter wants to marry is an albino. This is a good issue to grasp, in order to educate youngsters that there is nothing sinister about people with congenital absence of colouring in various parts of their body and that they are perfectly normal.

What I do have a problem with is SG Zuluís handling of the response from the daughter. She refuses to accept her fatherís decree, which is also based on the fairly logical desire that she gets a job and helps repay him for her university fees. Not only that, she sets about trashing his car, setting fire to her room and taking an overdose of medication. End result? Father gives in and lets her marry the man of her choice.

I have a serious problem in presenting this scenario to young people who could easily think that, as itís presented on stage, this is a perfectly normal way to behave. Parents have a hard enough time dealing with teenagers as they discover their sexuality, without books or theatre productions presenting the example that if you make things difficult enough, your folks will give in to your demands!

Skhumbuzo Nsele dealt with both confrontational and love scenes sensitively, drawing much dramatic value from the script. I believe that he should exercise his directorís licence and incorporate a narrator next time he does the show. The narrator could chart the process of the play as it goes along, clearly indicating that audiences are watching a piece of fiction and that its morality is in question.

More information about next yearís rerun of Isigcino Ngesami from Skhumbuzo Nsele on 082 216 4522. Ė Caroline Smart




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