A golden masterpiece
Egoli The Market theatre’s Laager Theatre, Joburg Tickets R90 at computicket.com Runs till January 31 This is the story of Egoli, The Market theatre’s first of many socially relevant pieces that celebrate the institution’s 40 years of storytelling.
Hamilton Dlamini, Lebohang Motaung, Alfred Motlhapi, Billy Langa and Mohlatsi Mokgonyana are the perfect cast as they immerse themselves in their characters: black gold miners at the mercy of the apartheid regime and swallowed up by Jozi.
Physical theatre is pushed to the limits by the cast, in particular by one of the characters who drowns his sorrows in so much Chibuku (cheap sorghum beer) that he throws up on stage. This was the first time in my almost decade-long career as an arts writer that I saw a member of the audience reacting by throwing up as well. Yep. The acting is that good.
As you sit through the production, you realise that, just like those of apartheid, the effects of migrant workers leaving their families behind in homelands seeking employment in the city of gold will never be fully understood. Married couples were wrecked by infidelity, children grew up without fathers and whole communities were destroyed, all for the pursuit of a “better” life.
While the original play by Matsemela Manaka used a racist and oppressive Joburg as its backdrop, a number of theatregoers will notice a few similarities with modern-day South Africa.
Witnessing a fellow human – regardless of colour – being degraded and his or her humanity shredded to pieces is never a pleasant sight, but that is not the most painful part of Egoli. You would have had to be permanently living in a mine not to know mine workers are still underpaid, remain largely illiterate and are considered second-grade citizens who should never surface. Apartheid has given way to ruthless capitalism and intolerable working conditions are now worsened by something called a “tender”. Egoli depicts what is largely still happening in the mines. And that’s a damn shame. This play is funny, painful, shameful, embarrassing, uncomfortable, realistic, thought-provoking and, most importantly, relevant. All
traits of a masterpiece.