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OUT OF BOUNDS (article first published : 1999-09-10)

I first saw Out of Bounds at the 1999 Grahamstown Festival and it was a pleasure to see it again in a `proper’ theatrical venue such as the Playhouse Loft, where there was more use of light, set and props although I found the introduction of a video screen unnecessary and distracting. Directed by Tina Johnson for Theatre Arts Projects, the one-man show stars Rajesh Gopie who proves himself a consummate storyteller, relating his tales with sensitivity, humour and panache.

The story is told from the viewpoint of Lal Lalchund, growing up in a working class Indian community in Phoenix, Durban. Perpetually reminded by his various uncles that he comes from proud Lalchund warrior stock, young Lal finds that his male relations are often found wanting in the success and role model stakes. When his uppity aunt decides to employ a maid, it is the best thing to happen to him and in his stout little heart, he swears to preserve her from harm. Until one night, drawn by strange sounds of seeming agony coming from her room, he discovers a figure of evil (his uncle, in fact) on top of her, bouncing up and down ... “and eating her!”

There are hilarious scenes, particularly one between his mother and his aunts in a kitchen. We hear of his shame of his dwelling place - pretending to head to a smarter house when the bus drops him off after school, how he got roped into a gang and of the day Cupid first hit him between the eyes when he met Cheryl “sex on legs” Ogle!

Another well-drawn story was his beloved grandmother’s annual birthday when the entire Lalchund family went to the beach. Before long, they are interrupted by two white policemen (“I had never seen a white person so close before”) and are made to move to the Indian part of the beach. Suddenly the Lalchund warriors were not so war-like and Lal got his first taste of apartheid.

The story continues through the violence in Inanda in 1985 when the family was forced to flee and split up. His father started “a shoe repair business from home and got very strange” – almost as strange as the neighbours. Desperate to break out of his environment, Lal works hard and gets a bursary to university where he meets barbie doll Alysh Maharaj. His cross-dressing cousin embarrasses the family at a celebration and Lal is the only one to recognise the internal suffering of the young man, a suffering which is to end in tragedy.

Rajesh Gopie’s Out of Bounds is running in the Playhouse Loft until September 18. It will also appear on the Hilton Arts Festival. Try to catch it, it’s well worth seeing. Book at Computicket.


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