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BORN THROUGH THE NOSE (article first published : 2007-10-4)

While the production may have lost a little of its original blazing sincerity, Bheki Mkhwane’s performance is still rock-solid. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Now running in the Playhouse Loft as Born Thru the Nose (I’m afraid that American spellings are complete turn-off for me), the show sends out just as strong and powerful a message as it did on its two previous showings. In the interim, during which time it had a run at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, I think it has lost some of its original blazing sincerity and spiritual closeness. Perhaps become too careful, too structured. Still, the performance is just as rock solid and Bheki Mkhwane is splendid in this challenging one-man show which requires him to take on a number of characters.

I make no excuse for reproducing my 2005 review as the comments are still valid for this dramatic piece full of gentle humour and poignancy which also provides an insight into traditional Zulu rites. Here it is:

Enter Caiphas, a smartly-suited and successful advertising executive. He asks his superior for some time off to go “home” for a few days. He’s caught “between a rock and a hard place”. His wife is a month overdue with the birth of their child and threatening to have a Caesarean. Decrying the fact the modern women “don’t know how to push” during the birth process, his grandmother is totally opposed to the idea, fearing that terrible things will happen if the child is “born through the nose”.

A visit to a sangoma reminds Caiphas of his traditional name which is “Sticks of Dynamite”. He is advised to take a branch of the mphafa tree and visit the grave of his father in order to bring his spirit back to their new home. While this advice is scorned by his wife, it is welcomed by his grandmother and so he sets off, moving into the world of the ancestral spirits - although he really doesn’t want to be a fighter, he just wants to be a father.

What follows is his journey as he “leaves today and moves into yesterday” as well as his attempt to balance traditional and contemporary lifestyles to appease both the women in his life. His travels take him to his father’s grave, situated on a farm owned by the uncouth farmer, Meneer van Wyk, who has no interest in his mission. Mercifully, the security guard Bobijaan is sympathetic and allows him to enter the gates late at night. Holding the branch of the mphafa tree, Caiphas summons the spirit of his father to accompany him back home.

However, baby still makes no appearance into the world and so Caiphas explores his history further. He learns the horrifying truth of the death of his grandfather and discovers there is one more spirit to bring home in the shape of his uncle.

Bheki Mkhwane was a founder member of the former Loft Theatre Company and his return to this Playhouse venue marks a historic return to his professional roots. He is a consummate storyteller and his characters are believable and clearly defined. As we follow his story, we meet Caiphas’s spoilt sashaying wife who is at the end of her tether with this prolonged pregnancy, the farmer Meneer van Wyk and his sidekick, the sympathetic Bobijaan, as well as the powerful sangoma with the penetrating eyes. The most memorable character is his grandmother. Stooped, arthritic, querulous and all-wise, she moves in and out of the story with compelling intent and her delight when the baby is born of a natural birth is beautifully portrayed.

Born Thru the Nose has public performances in the Playhouse Loft at 19h30 on October 3, 5, 6, 12 and 13 with Sunday matinees on October 7 and 14 at 15h00. Special schools performances are at 11h00 on October 4, 5, 10 and 11. Tickets R40 (R20 per pupil for schools performances). Book through Computicket or the Playhouse Box Office on 031 369 9540/ 9596. For further information, call Playhouse Marketing on 031 369 9456. – Caroline Smart




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