Of the shows seen so far at the National Arts festival (NAF) All Who Pass gets a hot ticket for being a production that stays with one for a long time.
Written by Amy Jephta, this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre, it deals with the painful forced removals of two groups of families from District Six in the 1974 – and how the two childhood sweethearts from each family meet up years later.
Jeptha sensitively explores displacement in her new play which premieres at the festival. The work time-ravels between the searingly heart-breaking eviction – as the members of each close-knit family family spend their last night together in District Six before the trucks take them to new homes in separate neighbourhoods in the barren Cape Flats.
Later a currently-timed restitution sees an older Aziza return to claim her inheritance and exorcise the ghosts of what took place there where she meets her friend Salim.
Bringing back a landscape of memories, past and present and, naturally, the conflicts that exist between each family, it is poignantly and often searingly rendered.
A superbly designed set shows the interior of a typical 1970s house in D6, with a formica topped table in pastel shades along with shabby chairs in accompanying shades, a typical dresser with trinkets.
Dishes are displayed in shards on the ground, showing both the fragmented reality and skilfully portraying the crockery of the household of Aziza’s family.
The play opens as Aziza, played aptly by Iman Isaacs and Salim, also wonderfully evoked by Elton Landrew (and last seen in David Kramer’s Langarm) show the pair meet up, decades after the tragic eviction.
Soon they discover they may be more aged with time and greyer after the hardships they have endured. But after not setting eyes on each for than four decades, the penny drops as to their shared past.
Aziza brings out the box of trinkets the children had once collected and as they remember a mini-tea set and other lovingly treasured pieces they go back in time.
Aziza’s mother Nazreen (a great portayal by Carmen Maarman) appears somewhat resigned to the fact of her enforced apartheid-era removal while Salim’s mother Rayda – alternatively haughty and traumatised by the thought of leaving her long-time home is ill with worry and spends days in bed.
She’s skilfully played by Jawaahier Petersen.
Roberto Kyle looks brilliant in his dapper garb and plays Aziza’s errant brother Farouk whose plans to be a troupe minstrel do not go down too well with mom, neither does his lack of acceptance of their fate, as he understands the harsh realties of moving to another place that is not the same as District Six.
Under another talented woman, the play is directed by Qunaita Adams with music by Benjamin Jephta. It’s superbly acted and a must see – both for its supreme quality of performance and for this crucial part of our history that should never be forgotten.