Mu­si­cal of love across the colour bar

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MPILETSO MOTUMI

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

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