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SCENE IT: WHEN WE AWAKE, powerful storytelling at the Baxter

Barbara Loots


WHEN WE AWAKE at the Baxter Theatre is a colourful telling of a dark tale, a rhyme with (apparently) no reason, all which is catapulted into a carefully crafted narrative with this question: How does a whole person drown in a bowl of porridge and disappear? The undertone of nursery rhymes are notoriously dark, even if such tales are sung with great glee. The theory is that over the years dark realities have been spruced up with song and rhyme to desensitize children to death and harmful realities. The porridge rhyme at the centre of WHEN WE AWAKE very cleverly has the opposite effect, because inquisitive minds need to know both context and history, the short and the long tale of it all. WHEN WE AWAKE is a play about two such inquisitive minds reflecting on such a rhyme-turned-bedtime-story in a play within a play. It takes a backwards glance (from an apparently safer and more secure future) into the sexual violence past that is currently our present: the war of the sexes, or rather the war between The Dogs and The Womb... because if men want to act like dogs, then they should be treated as such, no? Filled with metaphors and symbolism, there is balance as laughter breaks through tension to allow for moments of exhale, as WHEN WE AWAKE takes you by the hand and runs with you across the east-to-west conflict of Venus and Mars.

A nuanced exhibition of protest theatre with humourous and haunting tones of truth and satire, the play draws clear tension lines as misogyny and feminism clash on the battlefield of extremities and radicalism: a most intriguing game of survivor in the era of the #menaretrash, #metoo, and #aminext movements. Under the sensitive direction of Nwabisa Plaatjie, performers Nolufefe Ntshutshe (Mbuzeni, Silindile) and Sisipho Mbopa (Mbuezeni, Ityala lamawele) step into the roles of the acting chommies, who in turn portray the two sisters in the play they discover in a rehearsal space. This collective brings great charm and heart to this emotional and sensory piece of theatre, conceptualised by Plaatjie, workshopped with Andrew Buckland and Mncedisi Shabangu, and further developed with Oarabile Ditsele and Sizwesandile Mnisi. WHEN WE AWAKE celebrates a powerful form of storytelling while fiercely exposing topics relating to gender-based violence and patriarchy in considering how a whole person can simply disappear in the porridge of society... never to be seen again? An intimate story that calls for an intimate setting, WHEN WE AWAKE is onstage at the Baxter Theatre's 60 seater Masambe Theatre until 29 February 2020, with tickets available online through Webticket.


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