B!*ches be good

B!*ch Stole My Doek, directed by Clinton Marius, is a good piece of theatre. It needs the slightest editing and reworking. But it’s good.

Seemingly about a lost piece of laundry, the storyline follows the wife of a mechanic and mother of two upstart teenagerimages gossiping her way through the morning with her neighbour whilst doing her washing.

Shona Johnson plays Salomé Wyngaard and gives a highly energised performance. A solo show is not easy work. She holds her own and had our almost-full house chortling throughout. She characterises the bouncy interfering skinnerbek antie with flavour, and in the recognisable stereotype everyone laughs along.

Every man has his castle, and Salomé is queen of hers, she maintains. You don’t mess with her washing line and you don’t mess with her “chil’ren”. She’s an interesting protagonist. Although she tries tapping into topical subjects with references to pop culture, e.g. Caitlyn Jenner & Nicki Minaj, it is through her unseen husband Dennis that we hear any political or social news – Ebola, crime and poverty – yet she promptly dismisses his attempts to help her see the insignificance of her minuscule issue. “I don’t care about SONA!”

This was epitomised when Salomé relays Dennis’s claim that “coloureds are a disparate nation” and her retort is that she’s unsure “we’re a nation … but definitely desperate”. It encapsulates the underlying commentary in the work on coloured identity within a very black and white South Africa. Politics isn’t that important for her, it seems. Providing for her family and making sure her kids are well brought up, and maintaining her dignity (a “lady never goes in curlers without her doek”) are what keeps her going.

The production contains subtle commentary on South African issues: teenage pregnancy, substandard government education, the class divide, the poverty divide, domestic violence. Through Salomé’s rambling gossip and intermittent yells at her children, we’re privy to what really affects her life although she remains unaware. Or chooses to ignore it. Like many of us, she transfers that unease into fixating on small and meaningless issues. It’s a good tactic for those of us who choose to tune out. It’s good scriptwriting.

However, I’d suggest that the script needs some editing and cutting down or perhaps some reworking in the character’s rhythm. I know the repetition is where the humor is meant to come from. At first it does. But the repetition needs some variation on a theme to keep it interesting. Nothing drastic, there are just a few dips during similarly paced or delivered or written sections that need looking at.

B!*ch Stole My Doek has an unexpected twist which gives the show its tragicomic feel; through its story it allows us to think about topical issues without ever stating them overtly. A clever script. A thoughtful performance. These are young theatre makers to watch.

– Sarah Roberson

B!*ch Stole My Doek is on tmrw (03/10) @ 21.30 & Sun (04/10) @ 13.00. Click here for production info & bookings.

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