two more stops before take off to planet circus

May 10, 2008

Day one of Truth in Translation rehearsals. Two good run throughs. And a plotting of the first act mostly. Anyway today was amazing . the sense of being in a rehearsal room with people who really cared about being there. Had prepared themselves and worked hard, in a focused way and consistently through a long afternoon. No egos, great sensitivity to the ideas and the text and with clear evidence of attention to the material they had been given.  


So Truth in Translation. The problem with reconciliation now is that it’s getting to be too late. There was so much emphasis made on reconciliation and forgiveness and tolerance and lack of vengeance and nation building after 94 that there was not enough attention given to transformation. To the fact that everyone’s life, and especially that of white privileged families, (who would not have had the same opportunities if they weren’t in this country that time), are just not prepared to change their life at essential economic and comfort levels. And this is true on a global scale. Until the world realises that the first world exists only because the third world exists; the fact that capitalism requires a poor working class and that is supplied to the first world by the third world, there is no hope of sustainable future. The pace of increase in size and complexity outweighs the pace of adaptation. The earthly resources can’t maintain and so the social structure of things as we know them will inevitably collapse and life will revert to post apocalyptic small communities of self reliant groups. Heard that before, ne?


And I am due to go to work in Las Vegas. Going into the belly of the beast.    



Its Thursday morning  five o clock and I wake early with the sharp ache in my gut from the fight with Janet over the phone last night. Never deal well with them especially when we are apart. If she expresses anger and hurt I get defensive and angry back and it spirals into bickering and harsh words. Sitting at some restaurant in Greenside with my finger stuck in my ear and the phone stuck to my other one trying desperately to hear her through the crap phone at home and not raise my voice too much but also thinking, ‘I am having a fight with my wife about really important things like hurt and pain, okay? So anyone who doesn’t like it must piss off.’


I was on my way home from a workshop with the Zimbabwean refugees. Simple exercises in story telling and sharing one’s story with the group but through an ‘interpreter’. Many of the stories very moving. An amazing sense of resilience and patience. And the extraordinary hardships so many people have to live with every day. Janet and I fight over how long it took to call the other back, and these people haven’t seen their spouses for three years because they have had to leave their homes in order to survive. Not because they have made a career choice. Most live in the Methodist central church with Bishop Paul Verryn. Stories of lost years and curtailed education and stolen opportunities and then daily hardships. People lining up in a queue to pay 800 million dollars for a bag of sugar or maize, and joking about it. A people who are peace loving and reluctant to go to war. A people, certainly the older generation, who tasted war and do not want a second helping. A generaton who cannot forget the veldskoen of colonial oppression despite the fact that it included a very good educational system which still serves the people. The lingering taste which encourages them to support the ruling party blindly – ‘These are the men who saved us from the colonialists’. And the ‘born frees’ who ‘do not really understand’. And all of them finding living here in SA even harder but without alternatives. ‘There have been gaps in my life; I am not living my life. This is not my life; not what I want to be doing’.


My partner was Simon. His life as a miner in Shabane and Gweru was curtailed by economic hardship, he comes to SA four months ago and finds himself in the role of interpreter at the church since he speaks Ndebele and Shona and some Zulu and Swazi. Ironically before hearing about Truth in Translation, he comments on the importance of the role of the interpreter and the value it gives him and also the hazards it carries; the sense of identification with the person he is interpreting for;

‘oh yes you are his friend, you think the same as him…’

‘No I was just translating for him’.

We are hoping that they all come to the open rehearsal in a weeks time before we go to Zim.


The prospect of going fills us all with excitement and fearful anticipation. The place still seems about to explode or ripe for a military take over. Each day the delay in the release of results and calls for re runs and recounts and stories of violent repression and intimidation build the growing sense of dread about the place. But somehow the preparations for the HIFA festival keep going on regardless. It’s so hard to separate media hype and the truth of life on the ground there. Only by going. The tableful of meager food we provided; three boxes of samoosas and cakes and Oros in tin mugs, is mauled and made vacant like a stop frame animation of food disappearing. These people are hungry. And man asks me if I have any shoes for him since his are broken. I fumble with ‘No I use my shoes, and I am not living here’. He smiles and eats another bite of Chelsea bun. In my session I explain to Simon that I was conscripted to fight in the Rhodesian war or rather the Zimbabwean war of liberation and think I have made it clear that I fought on the wrong side. When he tells my story he says I fought for Zipra for Joshua Nkomo and was one of the only genuine war veterans in the room. That made me feels a little weird. A young woman approaches and says ‘Wow its so surprising to meet a white war veteran in SA.’

‘No,’ I explain, ‘I am a war veteran but I fought on the wrong side’.

‘Oh that’s ok, we must all fight for what we believe’.

‘No but I didn’t believe in it.’

‘That’s also okay because you changed.’

Yes that’s right I changed. Oh how I have changed.


Fell asleep last night on a wet pillow full of despair. Where is hope in the world. The truth is I am not able to face the day without a conversation with Janet. She must be awake now.


 Well, thank you, I did hear from her and managed to survive the day. Contact made clear how much the skirmish had impacted on both of us. I sent her a text saying ‘Rattled and shaken, I can’t shake the ache.’ The sense of despair and desperation which accompanied everything from eyes open to the first minute of work took a monumental effort of will. Thank goodness for Graham Clark leading the warm up. And then to talk to Janet and to hear her voice and hear how she similar she feels the remorse and darkness which lifted simply by loving each other. A real understanding of the nuclear impact of a fight over the phone at this distance. I suppose it’s inevitable and part of the business but how happy to have forgiven each other and energized to go on.


Some constructive time with Michael, Graham, Sizwe on character and playing some of the scenes. Time to re-invest in Marcel through the other new versions of the characters he plays with. Other things are drawn out of him by new energies. And also trying to find what does this actor need to help him get to what the play requires. As co-conspirator with Michael, I feel more and more comfortable and find him saying things that I am thinking (and it seems vice versa as I express things). More confident as director or as one who can provide images and leads for actors, I find myself more articulate. Or rather that the images and words come to mind when I concentrate on the situation. (Ooh feeling very pleased with himself he was.)


Had an interview with Emma re feelings about going to Zim and in talking about it realized that though I as born in Rhodesia, having served in the army there and escaped from it, I left that country behind. I felt I had no right to consider myself a Zimbabwean since I had had no part in the making of it. In fact I had carried a weapon and used it in opposition to it’s creation. And the complexity of all that, plus the fact that I was married to a South African meant that I whole-heartedly adopted South Africa as my new home. And I did so with a determination that this time I would engage with being here in a way which meant that I could feel I had engaged practically with the liberation and change which was inevitably on its way. Gave up my Zimbabwean citizenship and became a naturalized South African. But then again the whole notion of nationalism and patriotism is part of the pathetic illusion to which we submit ourselves in order to make it easier to allow ourselves to be manipulated and controlled. So I am more and more a citizen of the planet than of any country. Where I was born was arbitrary and means nothing in the identity I seek for myself.


But that’s all by the bye.


So its Sunday already and we have had a week of truth rehearsals. Damn, felt like two days. Newbies are coming on good. Sizwe a little slower because so desperately keen to get it right and be good. Had a good session yesterday and broke some good ground. Thembani also taking direction very well and making great strides. The time is too short though to bring them into the whole psyche of the project. Graham taking a weird response to the singing rehearsals. Every one knows he can sing but he doesn’t sing, he just stands around clutching a tape recorder and looking intense. To me it seems that the only way to learn a song is to sing it, and you’ve got a whole bunch of people ready to sing it into your ear so you can learn it. Probably he will surprise me and my superior attitude.


A good conversation also with Michael and Yvette about the end of the first act and the shift into the Fish River scene. Then also the nature of the explosion scene and we need somehow to get the voices of women out in that scene so we find our way to a climax without the typical, not to say cliché’d, route of male testosterone fired aggression. We need to find our way to a feminine climax to satisfy the rhythm of the play. What that is remains to be seen.


Missing Janet.

One Response to “two more stops before take off to planet circus”

  1. Tamara Says:

    Ouch. be careful of those phonecalls they can hurt so much. I’m glad that B and I are beyond that. It was two years of “no, that’/s not what I meant”…

    thinking of you on your journey beastwards. heh.
    lots of love

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