So, we opened Rajesh Gopie‘s new play ‘Tamasha on Hope Street’, for Rajesh who wrote the first version a couple of years ago, it’s been a long but ultimately successful haul.
Writing is not easy and telling a story that is so rooted in an experience of South Africa that is South African but also distinctively Indian is even more so because most mainstream theatre’s don’t see the Indian population as a viable audience or a sector of the population that deserves to have its stories told.
A story set in Chatsworth about a young woman pimped by her brother living a violent, degrading life on the periphery of respectable Indian society.
And so, it is a struggle.
Rajesh has written a beautiful poignant painful story that is courageous and does not shy away from the difficult, the obscure or the culturally specific.
It’s a story set in Chatsworth about a young woman pimped by her brother living a violent, degrading life on the periphery of respectable Indian society and yet she does prevail as do so many women like Payal played by the indomitable prodigiously talented Ameera Patel.
It is specific in so much that if you don’t understand Kasi lingo and words like ‘chooth,’ ‘madar,’ ‘kasbin’ and the importance of Lionel Ritchie, you won’t laugh hysterically at the inanities that issue forth from the character “Brother” would be gangster, the brained addled pimp who owns the stage in a beautifully rendered character played by Dhaveshan Govender.
But you will identify with an Afzal Khan, a retired schoolteacher whose comic timing coupled with an innate sensibility that elevates the funny to the sublime.
He encapsulates the themes of the play – a deep seated belief in religion, culture and family yet mediated through the typical hypocrisy of all religion, it’s often misogynistic impulses and that deep need to hold on to traditions and cultures that are rapidly disintegrating around him. The policeman – corrupt, foul mouthed and woman hating – played in a restrained performance by Keith Gengadoo is immediately identifiable.
Lindani Nkosi balances off this talented cast with a sensitive portrayal of an educated Zimbabwean economic refugee living in an Indian township where everyone not South African is automatically Nigerian.
This play deserves to be seen by everyone – including Indians. It’s making some really important points about South Africa and the rainbow nation, our pathological hatred for women and the deep hypocrisy embodied in our love of all things cultural and traditional.
There are no holy cows – Rajesh takes the issues on – & Gopala Davies focuses his masterful skill on fine-tuning the focus so that if you are aware and sensitive you leave this performance knowing that this is a potentially formative work.