Theatre Review: The Brothers Size – A Spanner In The Works, Or A Plan Goes South

February 6, 2022

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The Brothers Size / Directed by James Ngcobo / Mannie Manim Theatre, Market Theatre, Newtown, Johannesburg


A revival – as part of a celebration of Black History Month – of a play that debuted at the Market Theatre in 2012, having first been staged in London in 2007, The Brothers Size is written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, also known as the co-writer of 2016 Oscar-winning film Moonlight, based on his own play. This story is an intense study of the relationship between two brothers, Ogun Size (Nhlakanipho Manqele) and Oshoosi Size (Katlego Chale), as well as a friend of Oshoosi’s named Elegba (Marlo Minaar). Oshoosi has recently finished serving a jail sentence and is on probation while struggling to integrate back into society. Ogun is a mechanic with his own business, who keenly feels the weight of responsibility for making sure his younger sibling stays out of trouble and begins to make progress. Elegba is also an ex-con – a good friend to Oshoosi on the inside, but a risky contact to have around when trying to go straight.

McCraney’s writing is terse and emotive. He has his characters occasionally use stage directions – having Ogun say, for instance, “Ogun enters the room” – which has the effect of highlighting the interplay between the three actors and between each of them and their surroundings (the set is very simple; mostly a pile of tires with a number of smaller props hidden inside them). He also gives them powerful monologues, expressed in rich Louisiana patois (the piece is set in the Deep South of the US) that add poetry to what could be fairly banal scenarios – like a man waking up and feeling tired, or considering the possibility of getting a car. As such, the piece doesn’t play like a normal, if compact, drama. It feels metaphorical and elegiac, even as audience member recognise themselves or a decision made onstage as familiar. The exotic names pay tribute to the Yoruba tales on which this play (and others in McCraney’s Brother/Sister play series) is based, which arrived in the US with Nigerian slaves.

All three of the actors excel. Just when you think that one is doing superior work, there is a scene allowing the others to display different facets of their characters or technique. Near-flawless accents and rich, resonant voices also mean their delivery hits home every time, becoming as much a part of the play’s appeal as the story, which is variously hopeful and sad.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”default_sidebar”][/vc_column][/vc_row]