‘iSys­tem’ looks at both sides


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTHEATRE - ROBYN CO­HEN

IN HIS play iSys­tem, Anele Rusi grap­ples with what it means to be a South African po­lice­man and part of the “sys­tem”.

The play, which opens tonight at Artscape, runs un­til Novem­ber 30 (Wed­nes­day to Satur­day) and is part of the Artscape Spring Drama Sea­son. It stars Sizwe Msutu, Them­bani Luzipho, Ri­aan Vis­man, Zondwa Njokweni and Ste­fan Eras­mus and is di­rected by Fa­tima Dike.

Rusi says in the town­ships peo­ple re­fer to po­lice as “the sys­tem”.

“They just say there’s the sys­tem but in Xhosa it would come out as there’s iSys­tem. That is how I came up with the ti­tle.

“Ev­ery day we read head­lines about po­lice bru­tal­ity – it both­ers me the way we are get­ting the in­for­ma­tion… I won­dered how it would be to get the po­lice­man’s point of view. I wanted to tell both sides. I wanted to look at their chal­lenges and the con­flicts they are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­ter­nally – lead­ing to their stress and frus­tra­tion,” says Rusi.

Con­tem­po­rary po­lice are not an im­age of­ten seen on stage, I say.

“Yes, I haven’t seen much the­atre with South African po­lice­men de­picted on stage. In my play, you see po­lice­men on stage in their uni­forms,” says Rusi.

He con­ducted ex­ten­sive in­ter­views and found that there is huge frus­tra­tion.

“iSys­tem looks af­ter its own but it also fails its own – of­ten favour­ing per­pe­tra­tors.”

A small num­ber of po­lice will have to deal with a mob of ri­ot­ers, for ex­am­ple, and what are they sup­posed to do in a sit­u­a­tion of a hand­ful of po­lice against thou­sands?

“I want peo­ple to think and not just to stop there, but dis­cuss and talk about what is hap­pen­ing. Peo­ple for­get that un­der that blue uni­form there is a hu­man be­ing like any other, with emo­tions, stress and fac­ing so­ci­etal is­sues like all of us. Be­fore they are po­lice of­fi­cers they are fa­thers, moth­ers, brothers and sis­ters. I wanted to re­mind the au­di­ence that po­lice of­fi­cers have fam­i­lies as well, so they are likely to be just as vul­ner­a­ble at times.”

This is Rusi’s first staged play in a main­stream Cape Town venue but he has been writ­ing plays since his first year in var­sity.

Rusi, 30, grew up in the East­ern Cape and came to Cape Town to study elec­tri­cal engineering at the Cape Penin­sula Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy in Belville. It was dur­ing his first week of ori­en­ta­tion at CPUT that he signed up for poetry and drama ac­tiv­i­ties, some­thing to do in his spare time.

Par­al­lel to his engineering stud­ies, he threw him­self into writ­ing and di­rect­ing stu­dent drama pro­duc­tions – one of which went to the Na­tional Arts Fes­ti­val.

Dur­ing his fi­nal year of study, Rusi at­tended a workshop in Langa run by Roy Sargeant.

“He told us about the Black Play­wrights’ Fo­rum, which forms a part of Artscape’s New Writ­ing Pro­gramme, and that we could send in scripts and if they se­lected your script they would coach and guide one and it might be staged as part of the Spring Drama Sea­son.”

He sub­mit­ted iSys­tem and it was se­lected. He says the ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with Sargeant and di­rec­tor Fa­tima Dike was tremen­dous. Watch­ing his text come to life on stage has been thrilling, he says.

Rusi works for a cell­phone op­er­a­tor by day and con­tin­ues his writ­ing in his “spare time”.

● Shows are at 7.30pm and there is a 3pm mati­nee on Satur­day, Novem­ber 30. Tick­ets are R50-R85 from Com­puticket on 0861 915 8000 or Artscape on 021 421 7695. Dis­counts for stu­dents and se­niors with valid IDs.


POINT OF VIEW: Zondwa Njonkweni, left, Ri­aan Vis­man and Them­bani Luzipho in

DI­REC­TOR: Anele Rusi

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