Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Timely South African Play Stands out in `Mayfest' the Opening of `Mooi Street Moves' at Glasgow's Arts Festival Coincided with Nelson Mandela's Historic Inauguration

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Timely South African Play Stands out in `Mayfest' the Opening of `Mooi Street Moves' at Glasgow's Arts Festival Coincided with Nelson Mandela's Historic Inauguration

Article excerpt

MOOI STREET MOVES. Written by Paul Slabolepszy. Presented by Footpaul Productions. At the Arches Theater in Glasgow.

HE is looking for his brother, this white up-country youth just arrived in a black district of Johannesburg. That much at least emerges from the distracted dialog at the outset of "Mooi Street Moves." In the dismal room where his brother was living, when he last saw him, he finds instead - to his obvious and perspirational embarrassment - a young black man.

They might come from different planets, these two characters. They don't even speak the same slang. They don't like the same games. The black man is soccer-crazy and hilariously mocks, with actions depicting monkeys chasing a banana, the white man's preference for rugby. It is the black man who is all confidence and cockiness. The white man is riddled with nervous prejudice.

This two-character play, invited from South Africa to Glasgow's annual (now 12-year-old) arts festival, "Mayfest," played for six nights and won a significant award.

It had a remarkable topicality. Its opening night coincided with the day on which South Africa's first black president was inaugurated. A poster of Nelson Mandela is stuck on the back wall of the set next to the soccer posters and behind the haphazard piles of cardboard boxes containing TV sets, toasters, shoes, and other dubiously acquired goods.

After the applause at the end of the play, the two actors - Martin le Maitre as the young white man, Henry Stone, and Zane Meas as Sticks Letsebe - announced that their performance was dedicated, on this historic day, to the new South Africa and democracy. The theme of the play had already made its dedication movingly clear.

A confrontation between a South African white man and a black man on a stage inevitably becomes a symbol. They are typical, in a way. But these two also remain individuals - vulnerable human beings - and it is they who come to recognize this as the play develops.

As they begin to see each other's worth and find that they are not so different as they thought, so does the audience.

This play elicits sympathy for both characters by the end, though for much of the time Henry Stone strikes us as seat-squirmingly uncomfortable. It's as if he can't help his prejudice. The black man is a show-off and very funny with it, and his street wisdom is in contrast to the white visitor's suspicious naivete and outright fear.

They are, of course, both in trouble, both at sea with life, but the self-styled "middleman," Sticks, has learned how to cover up his desperation with bravado, criminal ingenuity, and comicality. …

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