Play explores xenophobia

A NEW play which makes a strong statement on xenophobic attacks that occurred five years ago, will be staged on the main theatre programme at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown next week.

Nominated for five Naledi theatre awards, The Line is the culmination of award-winning actor-director Gina Shmukler’s masters research on trauma and theatre-making.

Shmukler developed this play out of interviews she conducted following xenophobic attacks, which spread throughout South Africa in 2008.

In it, two women play a range of characters, each of whom has a different perspective on the attacks and as the powerful narrative threads gain momentum, the play explores the fragility of the human psyche.

When Shmukler began her creative research in 2010 she interviewed a researcher in the field of migrant studies. “When I expressed my shock at the attacks, she coldly implied that I was most ignorant as she reckoned that it was an event waiting to happen,” she said.

“I left her office slightly ashamed yet more certain that I wanted, through my research, to understand how the attacks had happened. What is the seemingly swift process from neighbour to violent foe? How do we prevent this from happening again?”

After spending several months in the townships in Johannesburg, The Line was constructed from a series of interviews with South Africans involved in, or affected by, these attacks.

Set against this backdrop, the play engages with both victim, perpetrator and witness.

It investigates what it is that makes good people do bad things and how the line is so easily crossed in the process.

The textual construct of the play is known as verbatim theatre where the words of the interviewees are used as they were spoken.

Following its sold-out premiere at the 2012 Wale festival, The Line was invited to The Market Theatre in Johannesburg, and then performed at the Baxter Theatre Centre in Cape Town, the Harare International Festival of Arts and at the Thusong Youth Centre, Alexandra Township.

The Line is written and directed by Shmukler, and stars Khutjo Green and Gabi Harris with design by Niall Griffin and music by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder.

  • The Line is on at the Rhodes Box Theatre from July 2 to 4.

Tickets are available at Computicket or the Village Green booking tent.

It moves to the Biko Centre in King William’s Town from July 11 to 13. Bookings at: (043) 605-6700.

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