A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

LOOKING AT “TO HOUSE” (article first published : 2006-11-23)

In the age of electronic communication, it is easy to lose sight of the pivotal role live theatre plays in informing the way we think and behave.

During the years of South Africa’s struggle for democracy, the theatre was traditionally a powerful medium for socio-political protest. The creative writing that went into stage scripts, especially in the 80s, carried heavy punches to get the message across unfettered. Proverbially, the Apartheid regime responded with its big stick of retribution.

In South Africa’s second decade of democracy writers are free to look at life in a perhaps less blinkered way. This opens up today’s theatre experience with complex perceptions that challenge the “Rainbow Nation” slogan. According to Durban lawyer, academic, playwright and actor Ashwin Singh, we delude ourselves if we allow euphemism to wash over the way we view contemporary South African society.

Singh expounds this view in his play, To House - a contentious piece to some, acclaimed by others - that opens this week in a new production at the Playhouse. This is the work’s second season on the Durban stage following a pilot run at the Catalina some two years ago.

From an audience perspective the piece is a challenging one. Its scenario lays the field open for close-up scrutiny, revolving around two men of opposite outlooks, divergent backgrounds, who live in the same sectional title complex.

“I based the play on my observations of the interaction between real people in Durban,” says Singh in an author’s note. “There is much to be admired in our evolving democracy, but true reconciliation between different cultural denominations requires a deeper and more honest process than what has been forthcoming thus far.

“Due to fear, misconceptions and poor communication, there is still far too much cultural stereotyping in South Africa. This manifests itself both in the public arena as well as in people’s living rooms. While acknowledging that race plays an inescapable role in our lives, and will do for several hundred years, perhaps, I also wanted to explore South Africa’s increasing shift from a pure race-based struggle to a class-based struggle. The play also looks at sexuality, territoriality, selfishness, power dynamics.”

Singh says his area of focus in To House is about displacement and basic human instincts. “It is about loose associations between people, heightened emotions due to situational stressors and pressured choices, made by people from all our diverse cultures in order to find their specific places in a complex country where there is still far too much fear and doubt.”

Despite its South African context however, Singh says the core nature of the conflicts between the characters suggests that the events of the play could occur anywhere in the world. Potentially, his script has already reached awareness on an international scale. It is included in a recent anthology, New South African Plays, edited by Charles Fourie with a foreword by Gcina Mhlope, published by Aurora Metro Publications.

From an audience perspective, Singh says he aims to stimulate debate and encourages people to embrace serious theatre as a means of creative communication and a vehicle for social change. If we can start to know each others’ culture better, we can take the first tentative steps to real integration.”

The play’s producer, Playhouse director Linda Bukhosini, shares this vision. “If justice is done to a good writer’s work in putting it on the stage, the result can help us to take stock of ourselves. Sometimes this is a wake-up call, alerting us to issues that need to be resolved with the insight we may lack or shy away from.”

One of the actors appearing in the play, newcomer Pranesh Maharaj, adds his own perceptions: “To House is the type of play I have always wanted to be a part of. My character is key to the construction of the main idea that history typically separates us. That we remain divided past ‘the great change’ not only because we don’t have the desire to integrate but also because we are deluded into believing that a race is responsible for the actions of an individual.”

“This story is written in a manner that handles events realistically. It excludes all the bells and whistles that usually feed an audience and thus creates a mirror into which you are required to look and analyse your own life. This is essentially my understanding of what theatre should be. To House is a truth. Accepting it [truth] is a fundamental morality.”

Besides Maharaj, To House stars Arifani Moyo, Thomie Holtzhausen, Shika Budhoo and Santhiran Moosamy. Directed by Caroline Smart, the production plays in the Playhouse Drama from November 24 to December 3. - William Charlton-Perkins




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart