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AMAGAMA AMATHATHU (article first published : 2008-02-15)

Once again Durban audiences will be wowed with the return of Amagama Amathathu to the Playhouse Loft Theatre for another season. This piece was last seen in 2005, but the message it conveys is still poignant and necessary. While dealing with the serious business of HIV/AIDS this is an entertaining piece of theatre for young people.

Mpume Mthombene and T-Bone Hlahane put on skilful and confident performances both as themselves and as puppet handlers under the tight direction of Gisele Turner.

The puppets themselves, beautifully created by Wendy Nel, become integral members of the cast.

There is Baba Mthathu who slyly suggests there are other ways of paying a debt if you haven’t got the money, until the young lady’s brother comes to the rescue just in time to save her. However, the gallant brother is not so chivalrous when it comes to other young ladies. He is HIV positive and seduces a young teenager making her pregnant in the belief that having sex with a virgin will cure him.

And so the real life stories go on, revealing myths and gender issues, the tragedy of child-headed households and loss of family bread-winners, financial problems often resulting from the spiraling cost of funeral after funeral, and the reluctance of men to be tested and the fear of getting the test results. All realistically portrayed.

This serious subject is well and often amusingly-handled by the puppet characters and judging by the reaction of the predominantly young audience – the spontaneous laughter, the aahs and hushed silences – the message conveyed is well understood. Although from time to time older audience members may not be able to follow every word, the youngsters seemed to have no trouble at all.

The costumes are delightful and designed to give authenticity to their personas so that the puppets with the help of appropriate gestures, cleverly manipulated by Mpume and T-Bone, seem to live the characters they represent making the message all the more real.

In spite of the enormity of the subject this is not a sombre piece and includes song and rap and many funny and recognizable real life situations. Although principally designed for our young learners it should be seen by young and old alike.

Amagama Amathathu is produced by Gisele Turner and Wendy Nel through their performance company Arlecchino under the banner of The Playhouse Company with performances in the Playhouse Loft on February 13, 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 and 22 at 11h00 with 09h00 shows on February 14, 21 and 22 as well.

To book call the Playhouse Box-office on 031 369 9555. - Janet Whelan




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