With Sherman Cymru playing host to this year’s Afrovibes festival, Wipula Paquet reviews And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses one of the many powerful performances that aims to bridge the gap between British and South African culture.
Have you ever been tired of queuing up at the post office? Well, get used to the waiting game and bring your own chair! Written in 1988 by the famous South-African dramatist, Zakes Mda, ‘And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses’ brings together a Christian maid with her food and an unsuccessful prostitute with her chair both waiting for days to purchase a sack of rice from a government office. Although being poles apart, these two women will depend on each other and little by little bond with one another. Put that way, this play might seem as predictable as any of Hugh Grant’s rom-coms, but this South-African theatrical cousin of Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ is deeply political and feminist.
Initially penned during the Apartheid, the director Princess Mhlongo has updated the play for the post-Apartheid era, thus making the maid’s cry for justice and the prostitute’s wait for revolution even more powerful and universal. Through their crazy curtseys to the civil servants wearing their “Sunday dresses” coupled with their contagious hearty laughs, the two comediennes on stage truly succeed in exposing the corrupted governmental system that use to rule in South-Africa. Even though never mentioning the Apartheid, the play highlights a hierarchical way to treat citizens even among Black people.
Almost living together for five days or so, the two women discuss their life experiences, their past relationships, their hopes, their turmoil in the daily struggle for survival. The characters gave an insight of women’s conditions from every social classes -the prostitute originally comes from a well-off family- in an evolving continent such as Africa.
Afrovibes festival has undeniably brought a touch of sun to the capital of Wales with ‘And the Girls in their Sunday Dresses’. The impressive performance of Hlengiwe Lushaba and Lesego Motsepe has to be saluted. [pullquote]They managed to embark the audience on an emotional roller-coaster making us laugh our heads off and drop some tears.[/pullquote] Even though the play mainly consisted in a conversation between the protagonists, it was highly interactive allowing the audience to reply to them, to dance with them on stage and even answer their suggestive propositions. This South-African play has definitely kept its promise to be both ‘stimulating’ and ‘thought-provoking’.