Woza Albert in Maboneng
Few things in this world delight me more than watching actors put everything they have into a performance. That is just what Bheki Mkhwane and Hamilton Dhlamini do in Woza Albert!, which is being staged at The Centre For The Less Good Idea in Maboneng. Woza Albert! written by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema, and Barney Simon in 1981, is anti-apartheid protest theatre, a satire that imagines what would have happened if Morena (Jesus Christ) had come down to South Africa during apartheid.
Woza Albert! is incredibly challenging for the actors who perform it, requiring immense energy, stamina and skill. Mkhwane and Dhlamini deliver on all the above, giving an energetic, dynamic performance with slick transitions and exceptional characterisation and physical work. They engage the audience from the most loud, vibrant moments to the quiet and still ones, such as Mkhwane threading a needle, while the audience lean forward in suspense to find out if he will finally manage.
Woza Albert! is lengthy for a modern audience, but, for the most part, the actors maintained their energy and, in turn, the energy of the audience, constantly bringing them into the action. Apart from a few minutes when the audience seemed to become restless, laughs quietening, I was surrounded by roaring laughter and tapping feet, ending with the audience on theirs.
The Centre For The Less Good Idea seems the perfect fit for this ‘poor theatre’ play. The ‘stage’ (merely a raised platform against a wall) is backgrounded by a collection of sheets of brown paper and on it there is only a large wooden frame, which hangs a few blankets and articles of clothing, to be used as character devices throughout the play. That is all that is used. In this space, the actors do not even have wings to hide behind, or a curtain from which to emerge. They are entirely dependent on their bodies and voices, honouring the tradition from which this play arose.
If you have never seen Woza Albert!, as a South African (and human being) you should, for the insight it provides us into our past (and present!) and because we are all in need of a good laugh from time to time – and this is a quality one. If you have seen Woza Albert!, this performance provides the dynamism and comedy of versions (I have seen) past. It honours Mtwa, Ngema, and Simon’s writing, but allows the performers to make it their own, in their bodies, with their voices and in a new and exciting theatre space.
Woza Albert! runs for only two more performances at The Centre For The Less Good Idea and it is, on the contrary, a very good idea!
Written by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon
Starring Bheki Mkhwane and Hamilton Dhlamini
Running Time: 70mins
Venue: The Centre for the Less Good Idea
Fri 1st Sept 8pm and Sat 2nd Sept 8pmby Meagan Connolly