90 mins, no interval. A lovely bit of rough theatre from the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town, a six-strong cast singing, dancing, playing a dozen roles apiece, conjuring up life in a no-hope South African village with the help of a plank, some enamel basins, some kind of giant palm fronds, a few boxes and jerry cans and rudimentary costumes. Performed in English with occasional snatches of Xhosa, and greatly helped by the songs and dancing (though it wasn't a musical).
Thozama is 14. Her mother is dead, she and her siblings are brought up by her grandmother while her feckless father is away working. He returns, having lost his job, and promptly gets drunk. Betting on a televised football match he loses -- and Thozama is sold to pay the debt and promptly raped. Head covered she stands in a basin while the men kick footballs at her: a powerful image...
This is a place where, as one character says, "there are no fathers": they're all dead, absent in reality or impossibly, criminally feckless...
There were elements of magic realism, like the moose, a gift from the Swedish ambassador that has escaped en route to the zoo and which is tracked down, cornered and killed by the townsfolk.
The cast play lots of parts: they're especially good as children (schoolchildren and Thozama's siblings).
It has a kind of happy ending: Thozama escapes with a young white policeman in a broken down truck full of children. The policeman is played by a black actor. Her aunty is the policeman's mother's maid, the pair of them exhibiting a certain female solidarity. The women come out of this a good deal better than the men.
Dr T said it was the most depressing play she'd seen in ages, adding that Thozama and her child and all the rest of them would have Aids. It certainly conveys strongly the sense that South Africa is a broken society and mending it ain't going to be easy.
The play has a post-modern interest in story-telling: the actors step out of character now and again not only to tell the story but to ruminate on what possible kinds of stories there are, and how this one will develop: a bit arch, that, though it didn't spoil it.
Written and directed by a white woman, Lara Foot Newton. Rudimentary props but to me it looked like a convincing portrait of poverty-stricken township life.
And the Telegraph review is, as so often, especially good: