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BEHIND CLOSED DOORS (article first published : 2001-08-14)

For me, one of the major highlights of last week’s South African Women’s Arts Festival 2001 presented by The Playhouse Company and supported by Transnet was Behind Closed Doors performed by the Gauteng-based Sibikwa Players and superbly directed by Phyllis Klotz.

As always, Sarah Roberts has produced a highly workable set that is visually stunning and atmospheric. The smell of citronella from about a hundred candles ringing the stage greets audiences as they enter the Loft. No self-respecting mosquito enjoys citronella, so the Loft can boast a mosquito-free area for months!

The candles surround a small acting area which is backed by a palisade and flanked at the back by two large edifices comprising ten gallon drums and suitcases which each support a large African drum and its player - lead singer Thembeka Mavuso and her colleague Mageba Hlatshwayo.

The play deals with incest - in this case, of a father with his daughter. “Often mothers are silent witnesses to these atrocities – afraid of speaking out against them because of their own vulnerability and economic dependence,” says Phyllis Klotz in the programme notes. Behind Closed Doors explores this theme from the moment when the hooded figures crouched on stage rise in a soundless scream. What follows is the introduction of young children at play, acceptance of puberty and the eventual rape and maternal guilt.

The unemotional recorded narration presents chilling rape statistics but the action itself is warm, human and compelling with Neziswa Kanju providing much of the poetic input. Debra Leshika is utterly enchanting as the young girl faced with the unwelcome advances of her father. Linda Mahlangu takes over as the character who grows into a teenager only to have to deal with the continued abuse as well as her mother’s disbelief of her story. The mother is well played by Ntombi Maphosa but it is Zanele Nkala as the father who provides the dramatic power to the piece.

The hour-long production is hard-hitting but beautifully presented and definitely not to be missed. There are three public performances this week in the Playhouse Sanlam Loft from Thursday to Saturday (August 16 to 18).

Book at TicketWeb




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