Visually audacious director wants you to really listen this time
DIRECTOR: Jaco Bouwer
CAST: Mncedisi Shabangu, Charlton George, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Bongile Mantsai, Zoleka Helesi, Marty Kintu, Andrew Laubscher, Richard September
VENUE: Baxter Flipside until March 25
REVIEWER: Peter Tromp
Jaco Bouwer does not do “safe spaces”. Simply walking into any of his shows can be a somewhat sobering experience. You can never quite prepare yourself for what he has up his sleeve. The best tactic almost always is to acquiesce and simply go with the flow.
The celebrated, award winning theatre maker seems to revel in pushing his audiences’ boundaries; in giving them an experiential event, rather than a “simple” theatregoing experience meant to stimulate thought through mere words being spoken. Bouwer wants you to feel all of the feels, to borrow the online parlance. That being said, he is no mere provocateur. Bouwer wants to shake you out of your comfort zone so that his deep-rooted concerns about society can really take root. He wants to shake you from your workaday stupor.
Bouwer’s adaptation of German playwright Peter Weiss’ 1963 work is expectedly raucous, but unexpectedly touching at times. This “play within a play” is set in an asylum in 1808. The Marquis de Sade (Mncedisi Shabangu) decides to stage a play about the murder of French Revolutionary writer Jean-Paul Marat (Charlton George) by Charlotte Corday (Tinarie van Wyk Loots) and uses his fellow inmates as the actors. The performance is supervised by the director of the hospital, Monsieur Coulmier (Marty Kintu), who is a bureaucrat through and through and who constantly halts proceedings when he feels De Sade is trying to foment insurrection against “government”.
Bouwer says in the press release, “Weiss had no intention of depicting psychologically realistic characters when he wrote the dialogue for Jean-Paul Marat and his author the Marquis de Sade, but rather he created mouthpieces of two diametrically opposed ideologies.” These rousing dialogues between De Sade and Marat unsurprisingly provide the most riveting moments in his production. Thrillingly acted by Shabangu and George, these passages that delineate the tension between personal and social responsibility are staged more like a dance of life and death, rather than a debate or an argument in court. It will give you plenty to ponder over during drinks after the show, and might even cloud your view of the world, especially the daily headlines, for days afterwards.
* Book at Computicket.