DIE 9de MAAND. Written and directed by Tyron Zoutman. With Earl Kruger, Zinedine Manus, Jay-D Sanderson and Yanick Sweers. Pictures: Sithembele Jnr. Baxter.
KAREN RUTTER reviews
I am constantly bowled over by the talent that emerges from the annual Zabalaza Theatre Festival at the Baxter. The creativity, cleverness and commitment shown by the young participants is a source of great satisfaction – the future of South African theatre is clearly in good hands! And all kudos to the Baxter/Zabalaza team for nurturing this event – and mentoring young theatremakers – with such care.
Die 9de Maand, co-winner of the Best of Zabalaza 2019 award, is a perfect example of the attributes mentioned before. Director, writer and costume designer Tyron Zoutman has steadfastly taken part in Zabalaza since 2016, winning a slew of awards for himself and his actors. That’s commitment. His creativity is off the charts, as a writer, director, designer, choreographer, dancer and more. And his cleverness, as demonstrated in this production, is astute – taking a contentious theme and not presenting it in a conventional or expected way.
Hurt and betrayal
Die 9de Maand is, at its heart, about toxic masculinity. Four young men are bound together by something they did at a school after-party. They are sworn to silence, each having his own reason for doing what he did. Eventually, the truth comes out, with Zoutman using the device of a court case to draw a “confession” from each man. Betrayal becomes a dominant theme, whether it be an adult betraying a child’s trust, or a friend betraying a secret.
The narrative whips back and forth in terms of time and place, the quartet of actors conjuring up settings and situations with a minimum of props – four boxes and artfully hung stretches of rope. While the ensemble format is tight, each actor still manages to assert a distinctive character into the mix. Earl Kruger, Zinedine Manus, Jay-D Sanderson and Yanick Sweers work smoothly together, but also function admirably apart. Theirs is a very strong presence on stage.
The choreography of the actors, the subtle colour-co-ordination of their clothes, the pace of their performance can all be credited to Zoutman, and it’s an impressive showing. The treatment of the topic, too, shows much thought. All four men have been damaged or hurt, in some way. Their pain and confusion is acted out in a way that is both mundane and monstrous. Mundane because it happens every day, and every hour. Monstrous because it happens every day, and every hour.
Pass for professional
Die 9de Maand is not necessarily easy watching – although there are moments of humour, and certain choice Afrikaans expressions are clearly appreciated by the audience. But it’s a brave and thought-provoking piece, which does not provide a simple resolution. Are we being asked to excuse toxic behavior because of its toxic triggers? Are we expected to understand, even sympathise? Are we supposed to judge? There are no basic answers. I would love to see this play performed at schools and in community sessions, with space provided for discussion afterwards.
Ultimately, Die 9de Maand is directed and performed at a level which easily matches professional standards.
Impressed, once again.
What: Die 9de Maand
Where and when: Baxter Theatre from 28 May to 1 June 2019