Tiisetso Mashifane and Qondiswa James. Picture: Dani Ndou, Lethabo Oratile
Tiisetso Mashifane and Qondiswa James. Pictures: Dani Ndou, Lethabo Oratile

A FAINT PATCH OF LIGHT. An interpretation of Athol Fugard’s Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act. Directed by Qondiswa James, performed by Tiisetso Mashifane and Qondiswa James and Jannous Aukema.

MEGAN FURNISS reviews

Qondiswa James is this year’s first recipient of the Theatre Arts Admin Collective Emerging Directors Bursary and she has used her time, creativity, energy and rigour absolutely perfectly.

She has created a work that is daring, heart breaking, beautiful and fragile. This work is an interrogation of black, lesbian women in a way that would not comfortably sit in mainstream theatre, and it exudes its risk from beginning to end.

Tiisetso Mashifane and Qondiswa James. Picture: Dani Ndou and Lethabo Oratile

In magnificent detail

By reimagining Athol Fugard’s text for black women, she captures in magnificent detail the social rather than structural taboo of a lesbian relationship, without losing any of the power of the original framework; illegal love across the colour bar.

Here what threatens is a society, vague and cruel, that cannot and will not accept love between two black women.

The audience is prepared for entering the space. This is a great idea. We are asked to be vulnerable; vulnerable enough to receive the performers at their most vulnerable.

Two black female bodies and a white male cellist occupy the reconfigured space of the TAAC as the audience enters. It is a white, draped cocoon space, with fragile, tiny discs hanging from the ceiling, a floating window, a bed frame and a tin bath.

And then the word-and-body story is inserted, unravelled, revealed, held, released and chased. Secret love, broken his/herstories, bodies, invasions, reconciliations, the poetry of touch, the bark of unseen dogs, the fragile connections, the longing, the rage, the fear.

In this version any witness to this secret relationship is a threat. In Fugard’s original it was the literal apartheid arm of the law. Here the concretisation of this threat is in one line of dialogue spoken by the white, male cellist. It was the only moment I would have left out.

Tiisetso Mashifane and Qondiswa James. Picture: Dani Ndou, Lethabo Oratile

Magnetic and powerful

Qondiswa has had to work doubly hard here as director and performer. She is sensitively supported by Tiisetso and the two are magnetic and powerful.

When I left the theatre I had not yet found the words to describe my deep emotions. Later I realised that I was unaccustomed to two naked (both physically and emotionally), black, lesbian characters front and centre and being the whole story.

This play creates the space and place for this, and it is powerful beyond words.

Where

  • Theatre Arts Admin Collective, Cape Town,  29 May – 2  June, 7.30pm, Matinee 2 June  2018, 2pm
  • Makukhanye Art Room, Khayelitsha, Cape Town, 3 June 2018, 2pm

What: A Faint Patch of Light
Book Tickets for TACC: https://tickets.tixsa.co.za/event/a-faint-patch-of-lightFMUTcNv
Makukhanye Art Room: Khayelitsha, http://www.makukhanyeartroom.com/
WS