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WAITING (article first published : 2005-08-2)

Just opened at the Stable Theatre is a production titled Waiting directed by Vukani Dlamini and choreographed by Sipho Kunene. Founder members of kwaito groups Vibe Lezinto and Jojavu, they have toured the world with Mbongeni Ngema shows such as Asinamali, Mama, Magic at 4am and a music group called Durban Dust.

Waiting is an edutainment musical aimed at creating awareness of HIV/AIDS, stressing the importance of making the right choices in one’s sexual life and highlighting the responsibility placed on communities to support those who have fallen victim to the pandemic.

The title of the show refers to that agonising period experienced by those who have gone for an HIV/AIDS test as they wait to hear whether they have been tested negative or positive. It’s “a long deal” as one of the characters observes.

The word “positive” is applied in its recognised form in this vibrant and energetic dance/drama where Sipho’s theatre contemporaries rally round and assure him of their support, whatever the outcome.

Sipho is played by Sipho Kunene who brings a sensitive and pragmatic approach to the role. We listen with sympathy as he tells of the incident when his girlfriend was gang-raped while he was forced to watch. We feel his anguish as he comforts her afterwards and stays by her side for eight years until the day she is buried. The funeral accounts for his late arrival at rehearsal, eliciting a sharp reprimand from the Captain.

As Captain of the theatre company/dance troupe, Vukani Dlamini puts in a compelling and focused performance. Durban needs to see more of this young man and I hope to see him – and Sipho Kunene - soon in a production at one of the mainstream theatres, like the Playhouse.

Apart from Sipho and Vukani, I was impressed with Khumbulani Hlongwa who played the father, Sbusiso Shozi who was the self-important security guard and Zwelakhe Masinga in the role of Spokes. Mbali Ngubani gave a good account as the long-suffering mother but she needs to work on her voice as it tends to be shrill.

Unfortunately, the programme does not name the rest of the cast so I am unable to single out anyone but I would like to commend them for their focus and interaction in scenes in which they were simply bystanders.

The production is very much in Ngema style with any excuse for dance numbers presented in his standard “line” format. I would like to see more imaginative placing and formation of the dancers, using different areas of the stage and more focus on individual sequences. Once again, I had a problem with badly-focused lighting in this venue but I understand that this will be attended to tomorrow so hopefully none of the performers will be in the dark anymore! I would also place the keyboard player closer to the audience which will give him a better eye-line to the performers, with the drum kit on the other side as it tends to be very overpowering in its current position.

There have been many community theatre productions dealing with the HIV/AIDS issue but this is the first one for me that has dealt with the subject in a clearly-thought out and accessible way. Congratulations to all involved.

Waiting runs at The Stable Theatre in Alice Street from August 2 to 7 at 19h00 (matinees on August 6 and 7 at 14h00). Tickets R15 (R10 students). More information and bookings on 031 309 2513. – Caroline Smart




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