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Review of My Children! My Africa! at Tristan Bates Theatre

My Children! My Africa!With a season of hard hitting Productions at it’s core, Tristan Bates Theatre has really brought a lost treasure to the ocean’s surface with Athol Fugard’s My Children! My Africa! Presented by Two Shed Theatre. Being performed in London for the first time in 25 years is quite astounding, but perhaps makes its return all the more welcome.

Young man Thami (Nathan Ives-Moiba) has great potential, intellectually gifted, great wit and the support of a dedicated teacher Mr M (Anthony Ofoegbu) but being black and living in the location in the South African Apartheid in 1984 has torn his loyalties and complicated any dreams he may possess. The wire fence that the audience watch the play through is a clever touch by the Directors Roger Mortimer and Deborah Edgington, as it represents a sense of segregation even though the performances on stage create an intimacy with the characters’ lives.

Mr M is a captivating presence due to a masterful performance by Ofoegbu who slides between an array of emotions most notably passion for the human mind and it’s use as a weapon instead of physical violence, his forward thinking is that he will make his young students equipt to change their country for the better with their minds. Ofoegbu describing hope as an animal and exclaiming the line “I feed young people to it” was a heartbreakingly powerful moment in the play assisted by lighting designer Jack Weir’s haunting effects.

There was a great chemistry between plucky white student Isobel (Rose Reynolds) and Thami with Reynolds’ portraying naivety and longing perfectly with their bubbling under the surface relationship, which was later labelled just as friendship by Thami. Ives-Moiba transitioned between the larger than life personality the audience is introduced to in the beginning of the play to the cold and brainwashed empty vessel we see in the latter stages. The comedic content delivered with such wit by Ofoegbu with his ‘team’ of Isobel, Thami and himself was a pleasure to watch with Fugard creating some tender moments in these scenes.

My Children! My Africa! is a window in to history of the South African Apartheid, with its mixture of humour and tension it is a powerful story. Perhaps the monologue sections are at times a little too long in length, but in a production that has such a shining cast their expertise brought every word that they spoke to life, to the point where it felt as if it was the audiences Africa too.
4 stars

Review by Francesca Mepham

My Children! My Africa! By Athol Fugard
Tristan Bates Theatre
28 April – 16 May. Tue – Sat, 7.30pm & Sun, 3pm.
http://tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/

South Africa, 1985 – the fourth decade of apartheid. Two opposing forces struggle for the soul of Thami, a young, brilliant black man. His teacher insists that education, even the inferior “Bantu” education he is forced to teach, is the way to liberation. But Thami has begun to listen to angrier voices…

Should violence be met with violence? The play is actually about my internal debate, at the end of which I found myself believing that putting words on paper is a valid form of action. You can throw stones, petrol bombs and molotov cocktails as hard as you like at those armoured cars, but you’re not going to do much damage. Words can get inside those armoured cars. Words can get inside the heads of the people inside those armoured cars.” Athol Fugard

Friday 1st May 2015

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