Emsini strikes savagely at a sore point in post-apartheid South African culture. Its commentary focuses on the generational shift in consciousness between the heroes of the Mandela era and a particular section of the youth of the next generation: those who grew up amidst the height of the country’s violence but were left disillusioned after the struggle was won and the dreams of a better life remained unfulfilled.
By the light of the play (the title of which translates to ‘Smoke’ in English) the situation is bleak and disturbingly close to an unnerving trend of violence that, two decades after the ‘New’ South Africa was born, is at odds with the ideal of South Africa’s hard-won freedom.
“We used to fear our oppressors, but now we fear our own children,” laments the play’s elderly protagonist, Daniel. A reclusive well-read man who is struggling to understand the lack of discipline displayed by the youths in his community, Daniel ends up sharing his story with an unlikely young girl who is on the run from two thugs with murderous intent.
Thapelo Tshite, Kagisho Shuping, Zandi Lucas, Tebogo Tladi
Written by: Moagi Modise
Directed by: Mkhululi Mabija
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
The cast is drawn from the Thapelo Tshite Art’s Development based in Kimberley, namely Jackson Shuping, Thapelo Tshite, Zandi Lucas and Black Prince.
Jackson Shuping who plays Daniel has a wonderful presence and a refined grasp of rhythm and pace. He acquits himself well with the poetic and articulate language of his character, and manages to salvage the attention of the audience in the few times when it could have been lost due to the verbosity of the text.
Zandi Lucas, the actress playing the girl has some good moments but struggles to keep her character’s momentum up in the relatively long periods while listening to Daniel’s speeches, as if she is unsure what to do with herself when she isn’t speaking.
The two thugs, Thapelo Tshite and Black Prince, are brilliant. The contrast of the very real and chilling menace of ‘Bra Staf’ and the comic stupidity of his lackey is extremely effective, giving the play another layer of depth and a means to drive the plot. Together these two are responsible for a disturbing sense of terror which lingers on after the play has ended.
The set, resembling the interior of a township shack crowded with books, works perfectly. Despite its simplicity it is visually attention grabbing, but in a way that draws attention to the action on stage not just to the set itself.
The writer of Emsini is Moagi Modise and the director is Mkhululi Z. Mabija. Together they have created a
bold, relevant production that any South African would benefit from seeing. Modise’s play cuts close to the heart, and its message sticks. Emsini is the gritty and contemporary aftermath of protest theatre, with its soul still curiously intact.