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SIS’STRATA IN DA HOOD (article first published : 2006-08-10)

Normally I run a mile from “The Greeks” as the theatre industry dubs the ancient Greek plays but Aristophanes managed to step out of the stereotypical tragic heroes and heroines and long boring speeches invoking the gods to sort out problems that mankind had gotten itself into. Written over 2,500 years ago, his Lysistrata deals with the accessible notion that a group of women, fed up with the fact that their menfolk are generally happy to engage in combat at the stroke of a sword, decide to take matters in their own hands. Led by Lysistrata, they take an oath to withhold sexual favours until their men make peace with other warring nations so that their lives can return to normal.

Robin Singh, a lecturer in the Department of Drama Studies at The Durban University of Technology, has produced a high energy and amusing modern-day counterpart to Aristophanes’ classic play. Presented by the Department, it opened – appropriately - on Women’s Day.

Setting the play in a township, Robin Singh has cleverly titled it Sis’trata in Da Hood - “da hood” being the “neighbourhood”. The warring element here becomes the violence between two gangs, who both seem to respect Bra Zooka who has a cash and hardware store. The production involves much sassy choreography from Mdu Mtshali on a set designed by Robin and created by Irek Karamon. In a corner of the stage, a security guard sleeps – seemingly oblivious of all the activity around him.

Once the women have agreed on their strategy there are many volatile stand-offs between the two sexes – in one instance, Bra Zooka (Andile Mdletshe) not only loses his girlfriend to the women’s group but ends up ignominiously writhing on the ground as a result of the combat. And still the security guard sleeps on.

By now the men are trying to cope with painful erections and staggering around the stage bent double. To make matters worse, the women have taken over Bra Zooka’s store and have flagrantly nailed their colours to the mast by hanging tantalisingly attractive underwear out to dry. And still the security guard sleeps on.

Driven by sex, various women try to sneak out of the store under a number of guises – to air sheets, knead dough or present the really drastic excuse of having become heavily pregnant! Men approach the store trying to entice their womenfolk out but to no avail. And still the security guard sleeps on.

In the end, of course, sanity prevails (this is theatre, after all, and not the real world!) and the gangs agree to put aside their differences which provides another excuse for launching into a dance number. That’s when the security guard wakes up!

As Sis’Strata, Samantha Moore impressed with a very mature performance holding silences with compelling stares. Other performers worth a mention are Sli Ndlovu (M’pito), Zinhle Dladla (the pregnant one), Nombulelo Khumalo (Sis’Cally), Pulane Pharasi (Sis’Mirri) and Samson Mlambo (Spooky).

Robin Singh is to be commended in getting a vast cast – numbering about 60 – into a cohesive whole on the limitations of the Courtyard stage. The DUT students are generally very good at crowd scenes allowing little characters to emerge on the fringe of the main activity which are a delight to watch.

Sis’strata In Da Hood runs at the Courtyard Theatre in Mansfield Road until August 12 at 19h00. Tickets R30 (R15 students and pensioners). Bookings and further information from the DUT Drama Department on 031 204 2194. – Caroline Smart

Parental guidance is advised as some of the action and language may not be suitable for young audiences.




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