The kids aren’t alright

NatChildhood is meant to be a time when the only thing that matters is what you and your imaginary friend are getting up to later that day. You play tok-tokkie and feel naughty then you go climb a tree. Be free.

Yes kids are nasty too, and nerds will be teased and tricks will be played on them. And the popular kids will always be chosen first for teams. But then at least there’s the comfort of mom to run home too. And a home to run home too.

This is how it should be for all children. Innocence extended for as long as possible! Because when we grow up, sadly, the hard truths of the world and harshness of ‘real life’ bare their jagged teeth and come after us.

But for countless youth in South Africa, childhood never happens and that ragged-toothed world into which they’re born offers nothing but basic survival. Horror stories by the truckload come out of SA’s townships daily, as so in every country’s poverty-stricken areas. Violence reigns. And the general response across the world is a shrugged, apathetic “that’s how it is… what can you do?”

Written and directed by Penny Youngleson, and brought to life by Iman Isaacs and Richard September, Nat depicts the damaged and disrupted childhoods of school learners in Grassy Park.

Nat is intense. Almost every moment is saturated with anguish and aggression. Even moments of embrace are tense – the characters grip and grasp at each other tightly. Or they are being chased; running endlessly attempting to escape. Or they lash out, frustrated, with no other way of expressing themselves.

Isaacs and September are excellent in finding that specificity in character, of youths who’ve experienced so much that they ‘know’ it all but haven’t had the time to develop maturity in knowing it. Isaacs states it best – her character says, “Ek is te jonk om so oud te wees.” A disturbing punch in the gut.

Nat is pared down; no set, no props, but a white backdrop upon which Isaacs’ and September’s shadows move throughout. And like the fragmentation of their characters’ young lives, the narrative is fragmented. Emptiness and distortion abound.

With story after story of horrific and tragic acts, Nat launches into attack from the start, comes at you and doesn’t stop. Style informs content here. Mirrored is the lives of those kids who are submerged under relentless waves of violence without respite.

Nat delivers a cold reminder of the world beyond the safety of suburbia’s high fences. You won’t, can’t, enjoy it. Instead it’ll hit you hard like a bucket of iced water to the face. Wake up.

– Sarah Roberson

Nat is on tonight @ 17.30 @ Alexander Bar. Click here for production info & bookings.

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