Musical of love across the colour bar
A MUSICAL about the life of Regina Brooks, a woman who defied the Immorality Act to be with her family, is going to be brought to life on stage.
The now 85-year-old woman proved a controversial figure in the late 1950s after she asked to be reclassified as coloured so she could live in Soweto with her daughter, whose father was black.
Now, after years of research, her story is being brought to the Soweto Theatre in the musical Gone Native.
Makhaola Ndebele, artistic director for Joburg City theatres, was approached by iconic trumpeter Hugh Masekela and University of Pretoria academic Louie Mulamu while lecturing at Wits, to take on the play.
“They asked if I could write and direct it. It’s a great story. It’s a different angle. We are a country trying to find identity, an identity that is complex.
“This woman grew up speaking Zulu, had European parents, lived on a farm and had a child with an African man, and ended up falling in love with another. It’s an important story to tell – having a woman as the protagonist, it’s important to be speaking about that today.”
Ndebele said with Brooks, it was a case of someone wanting to pass as black instead of white in order to be with her child during apartheid.
“Another theme is that sense of belonging; we have so many different groups as Africans. It’s that kind of time, when people ask where they fit in. This is a question that leads to reflection about all these identities. What do they mean, why do we take them for granted? It is all very interesting.”
Masekela and Mulamu spent much time researching the Brooks story, which happened when they were much younger. Masekela is the music director.
The main aim is to get the audience to reflect, says Ndebele.
“It’s a love story at the heart of it. Love doesn’t choose, politics aside. But when you are attracted to someone, that’s what it is – there are no social boundaries. The story is about young people deciding what they want for themselves, and the state trying to stop that, but they fought it until the end.”
Ndebele says the larger theme of identity in the musical has never been more relevant.
“How young people have the power to reimagine their lives: we are looking for that now. It’s a new South African musical, it’s fresh music, we are really starting a story from scratch.”
Brooks will be played by Marietjie Bothma, who is relatively new to theatre and musicals.
Ndebele says they went to meet the elderly Brooks, and though she is fragile they hope she would be able to attend the opening night.
In a 2001 newspaper article, Brooks recalled how all she wanted was be with her children, but she faced countless obstacles, with her white family wanting nothing to do with her, her relationship being abusive, and her children being harassed and not fitting in with the black and coloured communities.
“Then, I was too black to be white, but now I am too white to be black. I am a person without colour. All I ever wanted, then and now, was just to be Regina, a human being, and be happy.”
The musical starts on August 8 and will run until August 20. Tickets cost R120.
To book call 0861 670 670.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Makhaola Ndebele