Words: Chris Booth
Photographs: CuePix/Alexa Sedgwick
State theatre can be highly underfunded, fraught with tech issues, prop problems, and general performance faults. However, the storytelling element can often work very well and Forgiveness, a State theatre production, is one of these plays.
Forgiveness, which is set in the time of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), is a retelling of the classic Greek tragedy Hecuba. The beginning of the play is a little bit confusing as people in black robes and different costumes walk about the stage, often talking loudly over each other. This creates a jarring effect that had me wondering whether this play would be any good. But soon enough the main story line started and although I found that there was overacting at points, I was enthralled by the storyline (even when a big ‘Windows has crashed’ sign popped up on the projector).
The story tells a tale of a woman returning to South Africa during the TRC hearings. Most of the play actually follows her memories about how her anti-apartheid activist husband was shot and killed due to his involvement with some plan. Having given his wife secret documents, she hides them in her children’s luggage while she is on the run from the police. Soon she is caught, tortured, released, and flees South Africa after finding out about the death of her children.
Back in ‘the present’, the main character has returned and is seeking revenge against the people that killed her children. This is where the play gets really intense. Soon you forget about the technical issues, you stop worrying about the terrible half-American accent, and you begin focussing on the powerful story of one woman out for revenge.
But, as the title suggests, revenge is not the message that the producers want the audience to take away. Although in the play the main character is able to exact her revenge, she is tortured by her decision to do so and the big message that comes across in the end is that we should forgive, but never forget.
And, once again, despite all the problems with the production, I found myself at the end thinking more deeply about apartheid and whether we have truly reached a level that we can being reconciling what happened in the past and push forward into the future.