Friday, May 11, 2007

"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

"The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth"

I did say I wanted more theatrical magic after seeing Attempts On Her Life and yesterday I duly took a second hit, only in very, very different circumstances.

This time I was downstairs at the WYP (the Courtyard Theatre) watching the matinee of Nothing But The Truth. Nothing But The Truth is a flawed play (an allegation, though for very different reasons, that I suppose could be levelled against Attempts); its structure is obvious, you can see the ending from almost the moment that the play begins and I was unable to work out whether it was the fact that the part of Mandisa Mackay was woefully written or that the actress playing her wasn't really up to much which grated so badly on me.

But, and it is a great big but of Wordsworthian proportions, this play has something to say. Something important, something that deserves to be heard. It is so well located within the world of its central character that what it is saying leaps up, wraps itself around you and breathes life into a world, to a historical past and a not too far away present, that I will never be privy to. For all the possible over-simplification of its structure what the play is exploring is not simple; it is messy and complex. It plays with your mind, with your ideas and, then, sweeps it all into the incredibly believable character of Sipho Makhaya as the seemingly small, idiosyncratic desires of one man come to represent something much bigger. I sat in the middle of D row and cried because, for that second, it made me understand.

And then we come to John Kani. Those odd moments in a theatre when you see an actor hit their stride so completely are one of the reasons why I will return to the theatre time and time again. Last year Judi Dench burned her way into my internal memory bank during Merry Wives and Kani did something remarkably similar on Thursday. During my theatre going life I have seen a reasonable amount of poor actors, a larger proportion of ok actors, a sizable chunk of good actors and a clutch of very good actors. But great actors? They don't come around that often. Those who hold you, electrify you, blow your socks off and have you hardly wanting to breathe in case you miss a moment - no, you don't meet them on a regular basis. And Kani did just that. I believed him so completely, so utterly, that he broke my heart a little. He is the kind of actor who to be in the presence of is to be submerged into something that escapes categorising. He just has - soul.

As he took his final bow I knew - just as you always can tell - that we, this small Thursday afternoon audience, had been part of something very special indeed. Something that I will always remember.

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