Theatre production brings home the reality of hell on the Cape Flats

ONE OF my strengths and weaknesses is that I have an (over)active mind. I think all the time. When I read a novel, I think about ways in which I would possibly have written it, including other conclusions.

When I watch a movie, I question everything and have to remind myself to sit back and enjoy. Moviemakers have licence and not everything has to make sense. Thinking so much is a problem in a country such as South Africa, where people are often encouraged not to think.

I found myself thinking in overdrive while attending the opening night of David Kramer’s latest production, Danger in the Dark, at the Baxter on Tuesday night.

I was not thinking about the casting or performances (which were superb, from a layman’s perspective) or the songs (which were not too bad, but, again, I am no expert). I was not thinking about the set (which looked impressive). I did not think about the dancers, who looked excellent (but I wouldn’t know; dancing has never been one of my strong points).

Instead, I found myself thinking about the storyline and its relevance to society today.

Kramer said the original story, called Poison, was first performed about 26 years ago. He co-wrote it with Taliep Petersen and, while Danger in the Dark has a new storyline, it contains many of the original songs written by Petersen.

The story is about a young social worker who gets caught in the middle of the gangsterism and drug abuse prevalent on the Cape Flats. There are several other storylines, including an abusive relationship between a singer and a drug dealer.

I found myself wondering how someone like Kramer, who grew up in Worcester (and I am not holding that against him) could understand the pain and the agony of Cape Flats life in such a profound manner and reproduce it so remarkably for theatre.

I wondered why the thousands of government people, with all their huge resources, have never been able to understand the complexity of what is happening on the Cape Flats and, as a result, they have not done much to improve the situation.

It would have been good for some government officials to attend a performance or two and maybe to talk to cultural workers in communities about the issues raised in the play, including drug abuse, gangsterism and violence against women. My experience is that cultural workers often have a better grasp of social issues than bureaucrats.

It was good to see some young people on the opening night, but this kind of play should be compulsory viewing for pupils on the Cape Flats, who should watch it before having a discussion about how gangsterism and drug abuse could be eradicated.

Gangsterism and drug abuse have been a scourge on the Cape Flats since time immemorial. The sad reality is that things appear to be getting worse. While Poison was relevant in the early 1990s, Danger in the Dark is probably more relevant today.

Part of the problem is that the government has given up on searching for solutions because the problem looks too big to solve. But if the government is not prepared to search for solutions, then business, civil society and so-called ordinary members of the public should put their heads together.

The problems on the Cape Flats need a multilayered approach that will include education, social development and prosecution. It also needs a concerted attempt to eradicate inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Cultural workers and theatre productions can help only to shine a spotlight on the issues, and Kramer has done well with the production.

However, the hard work of dealing with the issues involved is up to all of us: the government, private sector, civil society and the people who suffer daily because of gangsterism and drug dealing. But that is me thinking aloud.

Fisher is chief executive of Ikusasa Lethu Media. Follow him on Twitter: @rylandfisher

114127628 - Theatre production brings home the reality of hell on the Cape Flats

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