Drugs, violence and religion anchor stage piece

BROTHERS IN BLOOD, written by Mike van Graan; directed by Greg Homann. Gymnasium, daily at 10am until July 4, and tonight and tomorrow at 8pm.

Reviewed by Brett Adkins

THIS consummately performed ensemble piece is what makes insightful festival drama compelling for many a festino – taking ordinary people and throwing them into a cauldron of extraordinary circumstances.

Of course, the setting – Cape Town in the late 1990s – may not be recalled as all that extraordinary, but it is telling how used to the vagaries of social turbulence we often become, that we may not appreciate the depth of it.

In fact, it was an explosive time with the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs waging a war against crime but often perpetuating violence in the process and justifying their questionable methods as a means to an end.

Add to this minefield of conflict, drug trading, gangsterism, xenophobia and the highly charged factor of diverse faiths, and tensions inevitably escalated to boiling point as families tried to protect themselves against what they saw as an invasion.

It makes for a complex and absorbing theme, and Mike van Graan’s award-winning play does it full justice, as the story unfolds of three fathers – each with his own deep religious conviction – who find themselves caught up in an entangled web in which Muslim, Christian and Jewish beliefs become the catalyst for a slow, often painful, understanding of the human condition.

Director Greg Homann guides his everyday but fascinating characters through a chapter in their lives with an astute eye – their story becomes our story as they navigate emotions of mistrust, anger, bereavement, dogmatism and, yes, even occasional joy as they live out their lives confronted with so many of the harsh and seemingly inescapable realities of their on- edge neighbourhood.

The cast is uniformly solid with David Dennis, Kurt Egelhof and David Dukas as the paternal figures who, individually, have caring but unique responses to their role as fathers. Love and stubbornness combined lead them to different, sometimes isolated, places.

Aimee Valentine and Harrison Makubalo, as a young romantic couple from opposite backgrounds, are also utterly in tune with their characters, who are quickly faced with a multitude of hurdles as they try to extract something of value from their youthful journey.

Brothers in Blood is powerful as it is touching and soul-searching. It comes as no surprise – no matter who you are – to be able to identify with each and every dilemma and to slowlyjoin each person on stage in their quest for a greater understanding of their identity in every realm that makes up who they are.

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