A Black and White Story at DFLRahiem Whisgary
Rahiem Whisgary: As lights bleed to black, Chelsey May Orsmond and Lesiba Moleko Komelane converge in a dance of passion, excitement, repression and anger.
We seem to be heading into a tale of a turbulent love affair.
Thankfully, Love Collision is not that simple – Orsmond is white and Komelane is black, which is the base for the comedic tension.
Director, Bongani Ntshingila, demonstrates his ability to create relevant theatre as the comedy is merely the foam above the water; underneath lies a depth of conflict based on differences of race, class and culture.
Orsmond as Angelina is from the northern suburbs, while Komelane as Shaka is from Soweto; and meeting halfway, in a park in Johannesburg, their growing love blossoms like a flower in a wasteland of prejudice.
Problematic stereotypes float to the surface when Shaka admits that, as a black man, he has no knowledge of romantic love, which he welcomes when he gives Angelina a flower and they cuddle.
Shaka’s mother is posited as the quintessential warm gogo, welcoming Angelina with the warmth and congeniality of a servant to a beloved master; while Angelina’s mother is as cold and callous as the steely eyes of a dead fish.
Despite the stereotypes, there are no holds barred on the class difference of the lovers. Shaka is strangely unapologetic when, after being asked for directions to the bathroom, he scuttles off before emerging with a bucket of water, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and proudly places it before a perplexed Angelina. After her initial confusion, Angelina, intrigued and struck by what seems to be an adventurous spirit, takes to brushing her teeth and bathing in the bucket of water like a child enamoured by a new toy.
As a result, I couldn’t help being transported to imaginings of Elizabeth I as she is presented with and explores the food and tobacco from the New World in the safety of her palatial comfort – there swirls, below the comedy, a current of fetishising the other, the native.
The problems of this fetishisation are debatable but what is clear is that, despite the differences – be they only skin deep in the form of race or embedded deeper due to financial and/or cultural differences – this is, ultimately, a relationship between two people; two university students who happen to be from different backgrounds.
Despite the blurb advertising Love Collision pronouncing that it is essentially about ‘when black meets white’, I couldn’t help leaving with the feeling that the complexity of race was not adequately tackled. Is one born or does one become black/white? Love Collision, to me, seemed more about interrogating class difference in relationships as opposed to race in-and-of itself; which, nevertheless, does not make it an any-less-valid theatrical work.
Love Collision is part of the Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival at the University of the Witwatersrand.
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Drama for Life Sex Actually Festival
Dates: Tuesday, 20th August 2013 - Saturday, 31st August 2013
University of the Witwatersrand, Braamfontein Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa