Rajesh Gopie was a fresh young playwright out of Durban coming to the ruthless National Arts Festival fringe frontier with a savagely funny play about his life, his community and awful-awesome, walking-wounded, getting-patched up South Africa.
It was the late 90s – probably 98 or 99, and Rajesh was a beautiful young creative mind, a hustler, an Indian China may bru, and we had a jorl at festival.
But down on the Village Green, on a stage the size of a sari in the Grahamstown Bowling Club, we watched in stunned fascination as Rajesh transformed himself into 27 characters and weaved a story which had never, ever been told.
It was the unexpurgated, brutal, visceral, story of being a South African Indian forging life under the hammer of an insane apartheid regime.
Out of Bounds was born from afar, raised under and within racism, hurled into the mix, rolled, mixed, fried, boiled and brilliantly bedonnered.
We were not the only ones who were aghast; the members of Naran & Son family, one of Grahamstown’s iconic SA Indian families, who kept my family alive and fed with fruit and veg and everything else on tick in the 90s, came away from the piece deeply engaged. I clearly recall one of the women saying, it was a hard watch but, “that is us”.
It was a soaring piece which travelled the world, and last night I watched two young performers, Tazme Pillay and Tailyn Ramsamy, deliver flawless performances in their of 2016 rendition of the work at this third Cape Town Fringe festival.
It’s sublime to see and feel how such a retro-80s-90s work has made it through to now, and still knocks on your chest, draws in the breath sharply, and blows the mind.
Etraordinary, since Ramsamy and Pillay are only 21 years old and still in their third year of a Theatre & Performance degree at UCT.
Was it a mistake to sit in the front row? The actors were actually in my face.
They sweated, and pranced and did beautiful, fluid dance and physical theatre. Punches and curses flew as the story was revealed.
They did not miss a beat. How can delivery be so smooth and assured at such a nascent phase?
The only glitch, a minor fart in the sound system at the ultimate moment, was easily forgiven as these two young artists brilliantly carried us gently through to the traumatic ecliptic end.
The set was smart and pleasing; the circle of saris to symbolise living inside and out of bounds; the engrossing use of minature homes to symbolise rumbustious extended family life, horrifying fiery ethnic and racial violence, and the suffocating, compression of apartheid.
And the zinc backdrop was cool for hanging stuff and, as always, the great SA cymbal for those shocking bashes.
There was a small dip in energy in the last quarter of the second half and that is perhaps a moment for director Crizelle Anthony and the performers to consider to either predict and raise the pace, or trim.
The thrilling essence of Out of Bounds is that it takes as its starting point the searing and truthful experience of one SA minority and contextualises this in the greater SA reality. From one chilli bite we enter a fabulous feast of flavours.
I salute these ballsy, groovy young guys. And I think Rajesh would too.