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

BIKO: WHERE THE SOUL RESIDES (article first published : 2008-07-6; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

Biko: Where the Soul Resides could easily have become a politically angst-ridden production but instead writer and director Martin Koboekae has produced an exciting and dramatic play which honours Steven Bantu Bik’s achievements but at the same time allows us to come to know the man.

In his notes in the National Arts Festival programme for the Main, Martin Koboekae states: “I have tried in the play both to capture Biko’s dialogue, which in real life sparkled with wit giving intellectual pleasure, and to expose his oratory and persuasive disposition.” He goes on to say that he wrote the play as a tribute to “the life of one of the selfless sons of Africa, who sacrificed so much for his country and who artistically has not been fittingly honoured 30 years after his death.”

The play covers certain incidents in the last ten years of Biko’s life and the role of the political icon is in the very capable hands of Masoja Msiza who gives us the right balance of tempestuous energy, sexual attraction, forceful articulation and clear-cut vision - not to mention an impressive demonstration of the monkey-jive! This is a formidable performance that allows the humorous aspects to stand alongside the political while his scenes in the interrogation room were emotionally charged.

Patrick Bokaba as Barney Pityana and Boitumelo Mothabela as Mamphela Ramphele were good foils for Masoja Msiza’s energy. They are well-supported by Erno van Dyk (Father Stubbs/Judge Boshoff); Tsallo Chokwe (Ben Ngubane/Malusi Mpumlwana); Sibulele Gcilitshana (Ntsiki Biko/Vuyelwa Mashalaba); Errol Ndotho (Aubrey Mokoape/Mapetla Mohapi); Bruce Gounder (Strini Moodley) and David Dukas (Sergeant Hattingh).

The setting needs to be streamlined as it is quite inhibiting at present and slows the action. The judges’ podium, which was only required towards the end of the play, could have been removed until such time as it was needed because it masked much of the video imagery. However, as the play drew to its dramatic close, it was the fighting spirit and vision of Biko that remained uppermost. – Caroline Smart




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