Rhetorical, Stratford Circus – review

Published: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 2:40 PM | Review by: Lloyd Lewis-Hayter |
Rhetorical, Stratford Circus Rhetorical, Stratford Circus

As part of the Afrovibes Festival celebrating the best of live visual arts from South Africa, Theatre Royal Stratford East have once more teamed up with their long term collaborator and award-winning playwright Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom.

If you know Mbeki's story you'll love it as it is, if not, read up on the basics and go and learn some more along with the laughter that Rhetorical brings.


Highly respected in his home country South Africa, Grootboom's plays about South African politics and people have toured the world. Focusing on the story of Nelson Mandela's predecessor Thabo Mbeki, his latest play Rhetorical is in some ways the most political so far.


Structured as a biography of the start to end of Mbeki's presidency, key speeches mark out the time frame intersected with pieces of spoken word, dance and satirical sketches. Unless you already have a good understanding of Mbeki's story and South African politics, it's often an overwhelming overload of information.


Without that knowledge, the humour in the satirical scenes is mostly lost as it's a struggle to pick up on certain references. Described by Grootboom as a play that 'tries to examine Mbeki's speeches and his days in cabinet', concern itself with 'what local people thought of Mbeki' and also ask the question 'was he better than Mandela or was that too high a standard to try to emulate?', this is a play trying to cover too much.


On top of all the political speeches, there are scenes exploring Aids, violence, crime, poverty and dictatorship. All using various mediums including video, traditional South African Gumboot dancing and silent 1920s black and white film style acting, a magnitude of ideas and themes explodes into a colourful yet sometimes confusing play.


Definitely a subject that deserves to be explored and explained in Britain as most know little about South Africa post-Mandela's presidency, with a clearer focus and structure Rhetorical has the power to open our eyes and minds.


If you know Mbeki's story you'll love it as it is, if not, read up on the basics and go and learn some more along with the laughter that Rhetorical brings.


Info: Rhetorical presented by Theatre Royal Stratford East was at Stratford Circus from 15-18 October 2014 as part of the Afrovibes Festival.




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