Classic restaged, begging the question: how much has really changed?

Classic restaged, begging the question: how much has really changed?

SHOW: EGOLI CITY OF GOLD
CAST: HAMILTON DLAMINI, LEBOHANG MOTAUNG, ALFRED MOTLHAPI, BILLY LANGA, FAITH BUSIKA, KATLEGO LETSHOLONYANA, MOHLATSI MOKGONYANA
DIRECTOR: PHALA OOKEDITSE PHALA
MENTOR: MAKHAOLA SIYANDA NDEBELE
VENUE: LAAGER THEATRE AT THE MARKET THEATRE UNTIL JANUARY 31
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN

The Market Theatre is celebrating its 40th year. Commemorating this epic achievement, it is restaging some of its most socially relevant productions.
The thinking behind this decision is to challenge and entertain new audiences and fire debate on subjects that still burn the conscience today. The first play to take to the boards is ‘Egoli City of Gold’ by Matsemela Manaka.

In the light of Marikana and the turmoil in the mining industry at present, Phala Ookeditse Phala’s vivid production illuminates the pathetic plight of miners. Brought to Johannesburg from outlying areas, these miners were separated from family and friends, and housed in unspeakable conditions in all-male hostels where all manner of evil lurks in the hearts of men. This cruel system is brought forcefully home by an enriching play that cleverly taps into the psyche of a group of men saddled to these rigid conditions
The gains made by a capitalist society has not contributed to improving the lives of these men who labour tirelessly each day, under trying conditions, digging for gold.
The play addresses issues such as poverty, racial inequalities, class, emasculation of the black man and the damning effect that men working away from their families has on the women left behind to care for their families.

Little has changed today and the play is as relevant as the headlines that scream from the daily newspapers.
Simply staged at the newly revamped Laager Theatre, where the players are unsettling in-your-face entities, ‘Egoli’ assumes a frightening new resonance.
The dynamics of the play, relayed in both English and African dialogue, has the various characters interacting on different social levels, all of them trying to survive in an often hostile environment. Going down the mine and through the shaft, is skilfully depicted, and is enhanced by tremendous sound effects of descending lifts and men drilling into the earth’s crust for a living.

Working as an ensemble are Hamilton Dlamini, Lebohang Motaung, Alfred Motlhapi, Billy Langa, Katlego Letsholonyana, and Mohlatsi Mokgonyana and we come to hear the ups and downs of their pitiful existence. Faith Busika is the lone female, whose husband, played by Motaung, is the sole bread winner. When tragedy strikes, the full impact of the play is rammed home.
The players command the stage with confidence and their individual personalities are allowed to surface. Though some of the African dialogue I could not understand, their emotions and body language did come through clearly. One has to admire the sheer physicality of the performances.
‘Egoli’ was hailed as one of the plays that employed the powerful mastery of theatrical language to highlight the harsh conditions under which black South Africans laboured.
Have things changed? That question still remains a burning issue.

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