I have to say it was creepy parking in the almost empty parking lot behind Artscape and traveling though the empty building to get to the Arena on the other side last night. Just up the road Cape Town was pumping with the jazz festival, but where we were was a dark, lonely little piece of town. Again, the silence of the Arena bar was depressing, along with the exactly four bottles on the shelves and the wrong glasses. It does make it hard for us to feel like we are there because we wanted to be. We were actually there for Brothers in Blood, Mike van Graan’s play, directed by Greg Homann and performed by David Dennis, Kurt Egelhof, Conrad Kemp, Harrison Makubalo and Aimee Valentine. And, before we took our seats I considered the possibility that I shouldn’t have had that single Jack after all. Everything felt a little bit taboo, knowing what I did about the subject matter.
Brothers in Blood puts a Muslim father and daughter, a Jewish doctor, a Somalian Muslim refugee and a Christian reverend in the blender that was Cape Town during the height of PAGAD action in the late 90’s. It’s all quite complicated. Their stories are woven together and then folded into a bag of interconnections that double back on themselves, for further connecting. And they all have very similar losses, and painful histories that bring them to this mixed bag of need and blame and anger and conflict.
There were moments during the 80 minutes of the play that I was deeply moved, mainly by the really superb performances of the cast, across the board. They were very, very good and fabulously directed too. There were a couple of scenes that were breathtaking and riveting and deeply touching, in spite of the fact that I found the style and form of the play quite difficult to come to terms with. It’s that funny thing where the internal monologues have to serve a triple purpose to expose back story, subtext and opinion. We pretty much get told everything about our characters and then see how this plays out when they interact. And I think it is a pity that they don’t just get to be.
The story of PAGAD feels to me to be an old one. There was something clear and committed and passionate about the struggle against gangsterism and drugs then. Last night I felt I was watching a slice of history, and it is almost that what the play was predicting didn’t come to pass here. In Palestine maybe. In the Middle East differently. In Somalia much worse than we ever expected. The irony is that in present day Cape Town intolerance of this nature is defined as Xenophobia and it is pretty much confined to black communities.
This is my story. I live in a little street in Woodstock. My house, that was originally owned by a Jewish woman, was rented out to Muslims when she was ‘forcibly removed’ when this area was declared ‘coloured’ in the 60’s. Now we own it; one pro-Palestine Jew and her long white non-Jewish husband. The corner shop is run by Pakistanis who can hardly speak English. The threat of the revival of PAGAD enters our conversations on the street corners when all of us feel frustrated by the scourge of tik and petty crime and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement. Our neighbours to the left are deeply religious Muslims. Our neighbours across the road are deeply religious Christians. Mo is a lapsed Muslim, now atheist, married to Milly, who goes to church every Sunday. At the bottom of our road are a family of coloured hippies; more socialist than religious. We have children in this street called Dylan and Aaliyah and Faizel and Summer and Aaron and Blaize and Mikhail, and Robyn, and Fahiem and Yasser.
I have gone off track, into my real world, grateful it hasn’t ended up with the ‘usual suspects’ behaving in predictable ways. Go and see Brothers in Blood. See great performances. See how sometimes we need terrible things to happen before we are changed. But sometimes, luckily, we just do change.