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Wednesday, 04 July 2012 11:21

UFS bring powerful protest theatre to fest

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Stuart Thembisile Lewis: The University of the Free State's Madikizela Verwoerd, a contemporary take on the damage left behind by apartheid and the struggle against it, is chilling, haunting and beautiful. Using a mixture of film and drama, this well thought through piece of post-modernism both questions the integrity of the struggle and highlights the surgical detachment of "Die Vaderland".

Madikizela Verwoerd focuses on the fictional bastard child of HF Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, and a black woman and how she becomes a pawn for both the ANC and the NP government. While the character is not real, the play has multiple references to real historical characters such as Dimitri Tsafendas, Verwoerd's assassin, to Stompie Moeketsi, the 14-year-old ANC member allegedly murdered at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's command.

The staging of this play is absolutely exquisite. Fronted by a "For Coloured's Only" bench, the stage was segregated into white and black with the lone coloured character suspended in between. The set, consisting of tyres painted white and several nooses suspended from the stage lights, evokes memories of necklacing and government-sanctioned 'disappearances'.

The entirety of the piece is policed by a character whose face is painted both black and white and who interjects between dialogue, criticising and commenting on what has been said and questioning or revealing the motives of the rest of the cast. This constant critique of the play's action is echoed by the film played between scenes, which is equal parts young South African discussing race and politics and stock footage of Madikizela-Mandela and Verwoerd.

The play's cast are also sublime with no standout performances only because they are all equally as good. Each character is given a set number of gestures that they perform continuously while part of the action, a ploy director Walter Strydom says was intended to "insure that people knew this wasn't reality" and that the characters were merely caricatures.

A powerful, evocative piece, this workshopped play climaxes in the ritualised murder of Verwoerd's bastard by an ANC cadre and the Security Police. It will make you squirm uncomfortably in your chair, it will shock you and it will leave you with hope in this generation's protest theatre.

Read article on Oppidan Press's website:




Madikizela Verwoerd is on at the Rehearsal Room on:


4 July @ 18:00

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