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FULL CIRCLE (article first published : 2006-02-3)

A huge hit at the 2005 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, Kobus Moolman's award winning play (Jury Award for Best Script, PANSA Festival of New Writing, 2004) Full Circle is deservedly being given a wider airing at the Hilton College Theatre. I cannot do better than to quote extracts from the synopsis of the play from the Festival brochure:

"In 1856, Nongqawuse, the young Xhosa prophetess, persuaded her people to slaughter all their cattle and destroy their crops with the promise that the sun would rise in the west and the white settlers would disappear into the ocean." Now we come to the "full circle" of the title when, in 1994, Meisie, a young blind Afrikaner extremist, starts having the same visions. Quoting again, "On a drought-stricken smallholding, a family of right-wing extremists plot to extract an Old Testament vengeance on their assumed enemy without, while the real enemy deep within tears away at their narrowing lives. What is "truth" ....... and how much blood will need to be sacrificed before the real truth can emerge?"

Do not be misled by this résumé, it is not a political play but a gripping and most entertaining thriller that works on many levels. I was riveted. The play is a hard-hitting, extremely well-written and crafted drama about power, identity and transition with elements of the film noir as well as a thriller.

From her first dramatic appearance, Meisie (Anriette van Rooyen) has the audience eating out of her hands. She gives a superb well-sustained, never overplayed, and above all, convincing, performance as a blind young woman. She is ably supported by Oom (Michael Richard) and her brother, Boetie (Cobus Venter) as well as Samson Khumalo as The Inspector, who really comes into his own later in the play.

Meisie's father was murdered seven years before and all she remembers of the incident is the voice of the man who laughed at her as shots were fired. Living with her is her uncouth and volatile uncle (Oom) and her brother, a trigger-happy and impressionable young man who is still G-d-fearing enough to know right from wrong. Meisie has special powers - she dreams things - and Oom uses this gift for his own ends. The right-wingers are passionately involved in their own struggle and rely on her prophesies for their next moves.

The play was produced by the author Kobus Moolman and directed by Charmaine Weir-Smith who has brought out the best from the play and the actors. She mentions in a note in the programme that this "gritty, realistic, challenging drama .... asks us to explore the fundamentalism in ourselves and question(s) whether South Africans could find a truthful compromise in their diverse cultures, philosophies and religions in order to attain a peaceful existence." Kobus Moolman teaches Creative Writing in the Department of English at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and is better known for his poetry. Although he has written a number if award-winning radio dramas, this is his first large-scale professional production. His dialogue is spot on, reflecting the Afrikaans family, expertly executed by the cast with well sustained accents and intonations.

Denis Hutchinson's set is most effective - a dining area, flowing into a sandy rain-starved garden with a bank of white roses which Boetie passionately nurtures, a rusty wheelbarrow, a bedroom dresser and an old combi seat, the poverty of the family is clearly shown. They have to make their food last.

artSMart editor Caroline Smart (whom I have quoted elsewhere) saw the play when it premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and wrote in her review: "In the end, Meisie reigns victorious having destroyed her enemies and engineered the devastation of crops and cattle - and so we come full circle.

It is really well worth the drive to Hilton to see this excellent play. Unfortunately it only runs for a very short period with performances at the Hilton College Theatre at 19h30 until Saturday with a further performance on Sunday (February 5) at 14h30. Tickets R60 and booking is at the theatre at 033 383 0126 or theatre@hiltoncollege.com. - Maurice Kort

(Editor’s Note: In Grahamstown, I saw Hannes Brümmer giving a sensitive and finely-drawn portrayal as Boetie. Cobus Venter’s interpretation of the role is just as sensitive but much more robust – well, he’s much taller than the rest of the cast, for a start! – and his physical stature, energy and passion bring fascinating different dynamics to the piece. Charmaine Weir-Smith has considerably improved the work since Grahamstown and the action flows much more freely. – Caroline Smart)




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