Van Graan stays the course with bold new play

SHOW: Rainbow Scars
CAST: Terry Norton, Kertrice Maitisa and Mbulelo Grootboom
VENUE: Artscape Arena until May 11
REVIEW: Peter Tromp

After delivering what for my money was one of the best plays of 2012 in ‘Brothers In Blood’, political satirist and topical playwright du jour Mike van Graan is back with another exercise in post-94 moral ambiguity with ‘Rainbow Scars’. There will undoubtedly be those that look at the title of ‘Rainbow Scars’ (which is alternating with ‘Brothers In Blood’ at the Artscape Arena, in what is an impressive double bill) and think to themselves, “Ugh, not another downer state of the nation MVG play.” To those folks I say, get over yourselves. Sure, Van Graan isn’t exactly mapping new territory here, but the way in which he goes about telling his story and the tone he employs is a departure of sorts from his previous work.

‘Rainbow Scars’ puts the audience right in the mind of the cultural stereotype that is the “coconut”; a black person who for all intents and purposes behaves like a white person. Only here Van Graan complicates matters by making that person a minor who didn’t have a choice in her identity.

The play tells the story of a small family consisting of Ellen Robinson (Terrry Norton), a suburban mom, and Lindiwe Robinson (Kertice Maitisa), a born-free orphan who loses her parents in the “New South Africa” and who was adopted by Ellen. Fast forward to 2012. When Lindiwe meets estranged cousin Sicelo (Mbulelo Grootboom), who is struggling in this supposed land of opportunity, her world gets turned upside down as she struggles with exactly who she is.

Even though it has plenty of comedic moments, and a light tone for much of its duration, ‘Rainbow Scars’ isn’t quite a comedy, for it is also suffused with moments of stark tension. The indefinitive structure might prove frustrating to some, but to me it mirrors Lindiwe’s uncertain mental state and makes perfect sense. Luckily Lara Bye is directing and she handles shifting moods like few other directors.

The play is also helped by a strong performance from Maitisa, who despite not even being 20, has the responsibility of carrying much of ‘Rainbow Scars’ on her shoulders.

* Book at Computicket.