I have really wrestled about whether I should write this post. It is not a kind one and I know that people are going to get upset, but my reasoning is that it would seem weirder if I didn’t write it.
There are a few things I need to say up front. Yes, I was invited to the opening night. And yes, I didn’t make it for the second half. And of course I feel shit about it, but I really struggled with the first half. So, for all of you who think I shouldn’t base an opinion on just one section, please stop reading now, and forget you even saw this.
Macbeki is a brand new play by Pieter-Dirk Uys, performed by UCT drama students under the direction of Chris Weare. The piece literally replaces the characters of the Scottish play with an array of main players on the South African political scene. It is the same story as Macbeth, largely using actual chunks of Shakespeare’s verse, with bits and pieces of updates, and the occasional big deviance from the original. It is, in essence, a brilliant idea, with the comparisons between the two Macs, Manto ‘beetroot’ Tshabala Msimang as Lady M, the old king as Madiba, being potentially hilarious and even horrifyingly chilling. Unfortunately, no matter how hard everyone tried, it just didn’t work.
Firstly, the play is pure, impossibly difficult satire. The characters are ‘impersonations’ which give them little depth, narrow range and a completely ‘hit or miss’ quality. They are Pieter-Dirk Uys specials, and really, I could only imagine him managing to perform them all. Drama students are just too inexperienced to manage the irony of satire, no matter how huge their talent or commitment. Having said that, the blast of talent of Lerato Motshwarakgole as Lady Manta literally blew my socks off. She is in a league of her own, with a perfect impersonation, a savagely accurate handling of the comedy and a presence that takes over. The other success is the Porter, played by Gabriel Marchard, who is a treat. Granted, his character is the only fictional one, although he has to embody the psyche of the every white man in the country. He is also so …Pieter-Dirk Uys! Unfortunately, the rest, while never being totally hideous, struggle to manage the material.
Everybody tried really hard. The actors gamely slogged their way through and Chris got them to do their absolute best. The lights and sound and set and costumes were great, but just couldn’t help enough.
So, while I sat there last night, in an audience that mostly really wanted the play to be brilliant, I really tried to enjoy myself. But it was hard. The man next to me giggled occasionally, but mostly his giggles, barely formed, petered out into…breathing, I guess.
I apologise for ducking out at interval. But I hope I’ve explained why.