Passion, without the application of knowledge, is dangerous, and possibly debilitating. Return of the Red Flag reminded me on an anecdote I’ve heard UWC Rector Brian O’Connell tell: a soccer player passionately committed to fitness performs endless repetitions of jumping and squatting, without realizing that the exercise he thinks is doing him good will rapidly wreck his knees and leave him unable to play the game he loves.
This trio of actors from Vryburg in the Northern Cape have passion a-plenty, but injure themselves through an inability to transmit their message meaningfully through the theatre they presumably love.
Instead, they strut about a stage cluttered with objects and symbols, mostly delivering lines in a quasi-military bark that is much closer to pushing propaganda to minions through a loudhailer than communicating with an audience.
The actors seem desperate to tell us something but I strongly suspect they are hamstrung by bad, or ill-informed, direction, and elocution that left me constantly playing catch-up to the laden text as my brain spent a half-second deciphering every sentence while trying to receive the next one being fired at it.
Which is a terrible pity, because I believe these men have something very important to say and I, for one, would very much like their voices and message to be decipherable enough to be properly heard.
It was a bit like listening to an unedited ANC Youth League press release being shouted at you. You get the gist but you lose the logic, enabling no constructive engagement. A situation that serves no-one.
The gist was that the ‘bloodless’ revolution was a failure. We’re 18 years on and the ranks of disenfranchised have only grown larger thanks to an unholy alliance between the communists, socialists and capitalists. The man in black with the silver briefcase has bought us all and the sacrifices of the struggle were for nothing. Apartheid never paid for its sins and white supremacy is still a fact.
I could be wrong. There may be nuance that I failed to get – the programme notes point to the possibililty – but it was not through lack of trying.
But if I did get it right, these are bitter, but valid, allegations. Very valid and very current, but if director Jones Chisekula cannot find ways to engage audience empathy, or even sympathy, he opens no door to debate but in fact slams it firmly shut and sends us retreating to familiar boltholes, reinforcing the very situation he appears to be trying to raise his voice against. –Steve Kretzmann