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Being a South African in a fractured state

By Herschelle Benjamin

Production: State Fracture

With Daniel Mpilo Richards

Script: Mike van Graan

Director: Rob van Vuuren

It would be dishonest to write a review about State Fracture and not mention the hysteria, pain, discomfort, hope, joy, release, engagement, shock and onslaught I felt while watching it.

It would be equally unfair to not praise this satirical comedy for its production, writing and its much-needed value within our current theatre landscape.

As a South African I’ve never been confronted in theatre before like I’ve experienced with this play. It makes you examine what those words really mean when you fill in a form and next to “nationality” you write “South African”. You can take it even further and ask yourself if you really believe that you are “African”, and how do you define it.

It would be incomprehensible to form an opinion without taking into account my own personal lived experiences as a 22-year old coloured male in South Africa. It would be unfair to remove my race, colour, privilege and all the other parameters wherein I have found a way to live in this country.

I don’t forget my (mis)education while being educated. I don’t forget my generation and our entitlement, or the need for reparation. I don’t forget the past that I’ve relived through my parents’ eyes. I don’t forget that same past is still lurking between us, influencing how we govern and what type of citizens we are.

I cannot live in the world and not be interested by what it is (or becoming). I cannot exclude myself from history, science and psychology. I cannot stop questioning. I cannot stop wondering. I cannot stop working. We cannot stop learning and unlearning. Not now. Especially not now.

State Fracture is worthy of all its awards and standing ovations. Richards’ versatility with accents/dialects, characters and physicality is outstanding. He embodies each character and with every situation he portrays he makes you believe that laughing about it is not enough – but also that complaining about it, ignoring it, being precious or sugar-coating it in the name of ubuntu, democracy and “the rainbow nation” are equally addictive. We might just become rainbow chickens

The hard-hitting script is aligned with the past, present and future. It contains all our fears, paralysis and disappointments. But it also turns us into ourselves. It wants you to think about what you’re saying when you’re not saying it. And what are you doing when you’re looking at what others are doing. When do you agree or disagree, and with whom? How economically, socially and politically independent can we become?

The hypocrisy, self-righteousness and condescending nature that we have nurtured for almost 24 years of democracy are finally turning against us, are staring us in the face.

It takes a powerful text to produce this strong a reaction – positively or negatively. You can appreciate it for its honesty, or you can walk out feeling offended.

Back to the drawing board South Africans. Back to the drawing board human beings. Maybe that’s the way in which we can try to understand the “bigger picture” we have not yet comprehended since the beginning of our existence.

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