Sibusiso Mthimkhulu (front) & Tokelo Tsalong perform in TrueLies. Image supplied.
What makes you mad?
Not angry, but crazy? Or are the two interlinked?
TrueLies raises this question in a story where a young man, who is cross about a lot of things – like, all the things political, religious, social – is sent for psychiatric evaluation. His fury is labelled insanity.
Something is absurd here, we hear. When patient and doctor first meet and go through some strange ritual of swearing an oath on the bible to tell the whole truth… we sense something isn’t right. This is no ordinary psychiatrist’s office. He casually remarks on the situation’s absurdity – its absurdism – but retracts, saying it was a slip of the tongue.
But we got the clue. The theatre of the absurd is most widely associated with existentialism. The theatrical form is disjointed, with unrealistic situations, and often filled with (seemingly) meaningless dialogue.
TrueLies, written and directed by Nkululeko Mkhize, plays with the conventions of this unconventional theatre form. While the play deals with existentialism, it analyses the pain of a young black man questioning his existence in the new “black system” – he essentially points out that democracy is an illusion created by white people; it is the drug, the meds fed to black people to retain a compliant and malleable voting nation.
Some heavy political rhetoric is brought forth by this youngster, deemed by the very system he’s challenging, to be a madman.
We’re clearly in an unrealistic world: I’ve not yet heard of school children being sent to psychiatric hospitals for questioning the ANC government. But… it wasn’t so long ago that women were institutionalised for the severe threat to themselves and others: hysteria. It was also not so long ago that one woman in a khanga who dared to rock the former president’s boat faced such severe backlash she was forced to leave her home country. And its in these paralells that TrueLies stirs up some interesting fodder for debate about perception, acceptance of the status quo, and blind belief in “the truth”.
Some (hopefully constructive) criticism: the scene about ‘women’s value’ can be lost. It adds little to the overall impact and isn’t clear. Is the patriarchy being criticised, or are tears being shed because women don’t know their place anymore? The script is promising but perhaps we need more silences to allow for the power of the words to sink in, rather than the incessant delivery of text in an attempt to ‘get it all said’. And perhaps, transform the text into more questions and less answers, lest it becomes didactic in its message?
The Young Outreach Artists – YORA have presented a good piece of political theatre, supported by a style that has us constantly questioning: what is really going on? Although at times we’re spoonfed some ideological ‘answers’, important discussions about the system we all live in are certain to be sparked by this work.
TrueLies is on tomorrow (06.07) at 16.00 and daily until the end of NAF. Click here for more information and bookings.
Director & writer: Nkululeko Mkhize
Company: Young Outreach Artists – YORA
Featured Artists: Sibusiso Mthimkhulu, Tokelo Tsalong
Supported by The Playhouse, an Agency of the Department of Arts and Culture