Theatre Review: My Fellow South Africans – Electioneering Eviscerated, Or Skit First, Ask Questions Later

August 26, 2023

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

My Fellow South Africans / Directed by Mike Van Graan, Rob Van Vuuren and Daniel Mpilo Richards / Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg

 

A satirical review comprising back-to-back skits performed with barely a break to breath by Kim Blanche Adonis, My Fellow South Africans takes on South African politics and its sometimes funny and often desperately worrying madness and ineptitude in a way that inspires laughter but also provokes – and that is precisely the right word – a response from its audiences. Get mad, moan, get out and vote, disagree wholeheartedly in the foyer afterwards, volunteer to hand out leaflets, whatever: but you can’t watch this piece and then sit idly by and say you weren’t aware of the state of affairs in this area ahead of the 2024 national election.

That’s the point of the show, which is kept simple in concept – one box in the centre of the stage, a screen at the back and Adonis in black leggings and top, looking like she might be about to head out for a yoga class – so that it can be easily toured and staged in schools and even homes. This gives the project artistic life, but also means that its struggle theatre aspect can have more extensive reach, a hugely important factor in terms of educating communities who may not otherwise visit theatres too often.

Van Graan’s critique is savage, but never in a way that proclaims a bullish agenda. You may flinch and you may find yourself muttering, “Oh wow, he went there…,” but you’d be hard-pressed to argue against the accuracy of this collected commentary. And Adonis is a brilliant conduit for all the anger and intelligence and acuity, being a smart, sensitive and magnificently talented actor while also being a number of things that Van Graan is not – young and female among them – all of which helps to underline the universality of the topics under discussion.

This show’s sister piece He Had It Coming deals more specifically with gender-based violence in very similar visual way. My Fellow South Africans adds to Adonis’ more or less non-stop work (including monologues, songs, accents, multiple characters and more) projections of political cartoons by Zapiro, which help to provide context and some sort of timeline for the audience’s collective memory around what has happened in Parliament and other corridors of power over the last few years. Such is the authority of Adonis’ delivery, though, that the cartoons are a bonus, with the real action up front.

Important, grittily entertaining, occasionally hilarious and sadly necessary, My Fellow South Africans confirms just how powerfully the arts can convey messages that make us think and will encourage the thoughtful among us to act.

 

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