At least once a month I like to watch a theatre show. I thought I should share the experience with you! This months selection was “My Father’s son” written and directed by Thomas Mponeng which was running at The Joburg theatre in Braamfontein. I got to watch this piece of work on a beautiful & sunny Saturday afternoon.
The play is a one hander (meaning there is only one person in it who plays all the characters). It opens up in the streets of a Joburg location. Here we meet a black boy, Nkosinathi “Mthinayi” Mthembu. He’s a hijacker but he calls himself an ‘repossession officer’
This character is played by Reggie Hoffman (You might know him as Tumelo on Rhythm City). We see him and his colored friend, Davinci, hijack a white lady. We learn early in the play that all their targets are white. We get a sense that they believe since this is the case, then their crime isn’t so bad. Reggies use of accents and his body in this physical theatre piece gives us a very clear visual of the different characters.
The hijacking goes wrong because Mthinayi realizes that the victim is pregnant. He becomes sympathetic as he has seen his mother lose a baby at the hands of his abusive father so he vowed never to put an unborn baby in harm. He spends too much time making sure that she is okay, all this time the police are making their way to the crime scene.
We see Mthinayi run away from the crime scene. Again we see Reggie paint a beautiful picture of the escape by the use of his body and music. Some of the parts were in slow motion which helped build up the suspense of what happens next. At this point we were at the edge of our seats. The scene also incorporated some kwaito music that you would typically hear ekasi which added so much to giving us the feel of his surroundings. You’d feel like you were running right besides him. We saw him jump over fences, getting caught under bob wires, running while looking back, shooting at cops, losing his shoe, all executed with such precision & impeccable timing.
The play fast forwards to him a year into prison. With using just a mop on stage he creates the prison space for us. This is where he unpacks the story of how he landed there. We are taken on an emotional journey, we get to know him a little better. We find out that he was very close to his mother and had a girlfriend that he was very in love with. His face would light up when he spoke about the women in his life. His father was a different story. You could see his hatred for him when his thought crossed his mind for even a second. His father used to physically abuse his mother. It’s something he would watch happen since he was a young boy. The resentment grew with each passing day. One day he came back home to find his mother lying on the kitchen floor, bleeding & bruised. His girlfriend was also there trying to help out. He went to his father’s room to confront him & found him casually smoking a cigarette, like nothing had happened. He laughed at Mthinayi, laughing at him thinking he was now a man. Mthinayi took out his gun & charged at him. They wrestled and the girlfriend tried to separate them, the gun went off and it shot her. We see him lose a part of his soul as he tries to resuscitate her, holding on to her, pleading with her to stay with him. She dies in his arms. We weep with him, we weep for him. After he says his goodbye, he gets up and shoots his father multiple times. He has reached his breaking point.
The play ends with his testimony in court. He makes it known that given another chance, he would do the same thing over & over again. There is now a spot light on him and he turns around so that his back faces the audience and his prison uniform is written ‘NOT GUILTY,’ which is what he pleads.
It was a thought provoking work of art and left us as the audience members with a lot of uncomfortable realities to go home & think about. My personal one being what would I have done if I was in the same shoes. And that’s what I love about the theatre. When the story ends for the characters on stage, sometimes it’s only the beginning for you in the audience.
My words don’t do justice to how amazing the show was but I do hope it gave you a decent glimpse.
Reggie plans to take it out on tour in the future. Maybe to a theatre near you!
You can follow him on @mapensela11 on Instagram to see more of his work.
Featured image by Reggie Hoffman.
…And that’s a wrap!