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

SOME MOTHERS’ SONS (article first published : 2006-09-21)

I first saw Mike van Graan’s Some Mothers’ Sons about nine years ago at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown when it formed part of the trilogy Dinner Talk. Since then Mike van Graan has expanded it and restructured it to the point where it is a highly sought-after work and has a string of forthcoming invitation seasons to its credit.

Seeing it recently at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, Some Mothers’ Sons is still a hard-hitting, thought-provoking piece that pulls no punches when dealing with crime and violence in South Africa. Very text bound, it is performed without a set with a couple of chairs and a table and a few props. No easy road of visual distraction here.

There are two characters – Vusi Mataboge and Braam Visser. In the mid-eighties when they first met, Vusi was assaulted by security police while being held in detention without trial. Representing him was Braam, an idealistic lawyer whose mother died when he was young and he was brought up by a black woman. At the time of the play, they are both working for a human rights legal firm.

Braam is hijacked and in the process his unborn child is killed. He is faced with the realisation that even the most fervent campaigner for a cause can be attacked by the very community he is committed to empowering and protecting. He takes his revenge and is now locked up in a cell with Vusi defending him. The roles are now reversed.

Directed by Jay Pather and featuring Wiseman Sithole and Gideon van Eeden, Some Mothers' Sons deals with issues facing many South Africans – the upsurge in violent crime and their response to it. As I said, it’s a wordy play and sometimes the performers don’t always rise above the text.

Some Mothers’ Sons was the Jury Runner-Up in the Contemporary Drama leg of the PANSA Festival of Reading of New Writing in 2005 and it was a strong contender for both Audience and Best Director awards. It deserves its rightful place in the annals of South African theatre. – Caroline Smart




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