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FULL CIRCLE (article first published : 2006-02-2)

Kobus Moolman's award-winning play Full Circle is set on a remote platteland smallholding in 1994, and as the audience files in, Denis Hutchinson's set offers clues to the characters they are about to meet. The scuffed furniture is 1950s boring; the ground is dry sand relieved by three straggling white rosebushes. And rusting ploughs are dotted about - ironic, because Meisie, Oom and Boetie are determined to reverse the biblical injunction to beat their swords into ploughshares.

These are people alienated from the society around them by their inability to change, by their poverty and resentment and by a fundamentalism that puts them at odds with the new pragmatism growing in South Africa of the time. Full Circle is an exploration of the dangers posed by the marginalised - a brave topic for 21st Century South Africa.

Oom (Michael Richard) and Boetie (Cobus Venter) are out on bail for plotting a coup. They are needed at home on compassionate grounds as they have to be on hand to look after the blind Meisie (Anriette van Rooyen) although she, living in a world of visions and prophecies, is in many ways the most dangerous of them all. Her visions of apocalyptic horrors, like those of the 19th Century Xhosa seer Nongqawuse, are the trigger for the mayhem the men are planning. But when a black police inspector (Samson Khumalo) comes to check up on the family, skeletons begin to tumble out of closets and other past horrors are revealed.

The performances that director Charmaine Weir-Smith gets from her cast are uniformly superb. In Michael Richard's hands, Oom is a strutting, crude, sometimes funny and always evil figure. He gives the play a rock-solid foundation on which the other actors can build their parts. Van Rooyen portrays the blindness and chilling obsessions of Meisie without ever slipping over into caricature; Venter makes the weak and confused Boetie into a man who can demand your sympathy against your will and Khumalo's lollipop-sucking policeman, new to power and trying to shake off his own past, is completely convincing.

Full Circle is theatre of ideas, dealing with disturbing subjects and becoming progressively darker as it moves towards a shattering climax. We are not in the realms of easy entertainment here and the audience is left with a lot to ponder. Short scenes, demarcated by lights going up and down, give the action a disjointed feel, and although some changes since the Grahamstown run have lessened this, there is a sense for the audience, particularly in the second half, of being kept at arms' length which inhibits the power of the piece. In part, this may also come from the size of the venue; in a more intimate setting the audience would be drawn further in.

The final scenes of the play made me slightly uneasy - there is almost too much happening here - but powerful, uncompromising drama that forces the watcher to confront issues they might prefer to ignore is rare these days and should be relished. - Margaret von Klemperer

Full Circle runs at the Hilton College Theatre until Sunday (February 5). Shows are at 19h30 until Saturday and at 14h30 on Sunday. Tickets R60 and booking is at the theatre at 033 383 0126 or theatre@hiltoncollege.com




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