NAF2019 Review: Black

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In what is Ameera Patel’s first stab at a one-hander, she seamlessly transitions between the various members of the Black family to tell the story of historian Zara Black, who whilst based abroad learns via an officious but vague letter from the South African government, that documents once sealed and implicating her father in an act (which, while not clearly defined, was committed against the anti-apartheid movement decades earlier) will soon be released to the public. The resultant unearthing of her own past begins with Isaiah Black – the grandfather that ‘started it all’ when he stole a handful of diamonds from one of the world’s largest diamond mines in Kimberley.

Ameera Patel in Black at the National Arts Festival (Photo Credit: Jan Potgieter)

The play which is based on author CA Davids’ debut novel The Blacks of Cape Town and eloquently adapted for the stage by Penelope Youngleson is directed by 2018 recipient of The Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans nod Jade Bowers. Ameera has such an innate ability to sincerely tell the story of every character she portrays. This was obvious in Kafka’s Metamorphosis and it was further confirmed with her portrayal of the members of the Black family along with the people linked to those characters. Her portrayal is supported by Bowers’ nuanced direction. Her clever use of the set transforms each item into a multi-use element most notably being the overhead projector which not only works as an overhead projector but also a light source for the stage. The score by Geddes creates an eerily contrasting effect with the almost upbeat melody of Thelonious Monk-inspired songs providing a soundtrack to the sad story of the Black lineage. Joburg audiences have an opportunity to see Black at the Wits 969 Festival on 26 and 29 July and then again at POPArt from 3-6 August.

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