18 July, 2008
Celebrating South African Talent: The quiet Violence of Dreams
By: Nqobile Buthelezi
As the trio walked into Dulce's Cafe on High Street, their electric ambiance filled the room. Director, Neville Engelbrecht (right), Actress, Lebo Mashile (center) and Playwright, Ashraf Johaardien (left)were more than happy to give a minute from their busy schedule and share the reason for their visit to Grahamstown.
Mashile, Engelbrecht and Johaardien were at the 2008 National Arts Festival for the debut of their play, The Quiet Violence of Dreams, which is an adaptation of the book (entitle so) by the celebrated late South African writer, Sello Duiker.
Paying tribute Duiker's acclaimed novel, Johaardien emphasised that the script adaptation remains true to Duiker's original work. "It was a challenge to unpack Sello's mind to script as the narratives are woven into each other, that nonlinearity capturing the complexities of our lives today" said Johaardien.
Duiker's novel deals with sensitive issues in post apartheid South Africa with an emphasis on homosexuality, ascending black middle class and love. So intense is Duiker's engagement with these relavant issues that Engelbrecht had to consider the responsiveness of the audience when decoding the meanings in the play. " Mine was a challenge of extracting these issues from a page to public space and allowing the audience to channel the issues represented in the play into their own lives and recognise who they are in the system, without creating a space for condemnation" said Engelbrecht.
Mashile, who plays Mmabatho, the only female character, felt at home with the cast. "They're all exceedingly warm, there was instant chemistry and a special ensemble we remain." On social complications addressed, she emphasised the importance of engagement in terms of openly speaking about such issues that affect societies. "We live in a hypocritical society, dealing with spirituality, class, recently xenophobia and interracial relationships; so this play is bound to make a stir in society." Mashile finds comfort in her role as she relates to the character's self and obstacles. "Mmabatho is powerful, well educated and faces hardships with love and a friend who suffers a mental breakdown. Yet similar to me, she becomes anchored and self assured" said Mashile.
The production's strength is its star cast, namely; Antonio Lyons, Jacques Bessenger, Duke Motlanthe, Garth Collins and Elton Landrew. "In those moments of deep emotion, we offer each other a good sense of parenting, as they say; there is beauty in vulnerability" said Johaardien,
Making it's debut in this year's festival, The Quiet Violence of Dreams is a must watch. Beautifully executed, the audience connects with the issues at hand and their relevance is society. Speaking of aspirations, both the director and cast had confidence for a success at the festival and beyond.