Theatre Review:Karoo Moose

Posted: August 15, 2010 in Uncategorized

Karoo Moose: 


Starring:  Zoleka Helesi, Mdu Kweyama, Bongile Mantsai, Thami Mbongo,

Apollo Ntshoko, Chuma Sopotela. Written and directed by: Lara Foot Newton, Musical Direction and Lyrics:  Bongile Mantsai.  Choreography:  Mdu Kweyama, Set and Lighting Design:  Patrick Curtis.  Vocal Coach: Lesley Nott Manim.  Musical Adviser:  Dizu Plaatjies,

Costumes and Props:     Koos Marais.  Props assistant: Henning Lüdeke

at The Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until 7 August.  ASTRID STARK reviews


First published on the Cape Times, 3 August


Karoo magic.



This performance has won no less than 15 major South African theatre awards and, three years on, it is still a very powerful production.

The themes dominating Lara Foot’s play are not really new.  The story centers around a 15-year old girl called Thozama who is prostituted by her dumb drunk father after he loses a bet.  The young girl is gang-raped and falls pregnant. Her support system is zero as she tries to deal with the consequences of the action of the men around her.  This could be one of many true stories from any of our townships. But then the director weaves in a few strings of magic into the story in the form of an escaped moose. A loose moose in the Karoo brings hope and redemption for the young Thozama.  

The entire cast is simply superb as they narrate Thozama’s story through traditional storytelling, singing and clowning.  Their appreciation and respect for one another is tangible.  They have to step into the shoes of various characters and they all do so effortlessly.  The talented Mdu Kweyama flips from strapping young gun to Quinnie the baby, in a heartbeat, and he is utterly convincing.  Chuma Sopotela as the battered Thozama’s performance is radiant and heart-breaking.  Zoleka Helesi as Thokazama’s grand-mother, and at one time a prostitute, is legendary as she ages in front of your eyes. But it the handsome Bongile Mantsai that gives a beautiful, understated and moving performance as Brian, the white policeman that falls in love with Thozama. I really believe this guy, and in the future of the troubled couple.  The cast organically and harmoniously weave their way around and into each other and you just cannot take your eyes off them.

Very clever is the use of Koos Marias’ costumes and props. When there is a scene involving curious children gathering around grandma’s table, the grown men are reduces to babies by simply holding up children’s clothing in front of them or sucking a thumb. It’s a bit corny but it works. And this is my best bit. The two policemen who investigate the appearance and ‘murder’ of the moose are so camp.  They could have stepped right out of Ben Elton’s Thin Blue Line or from an episode of Fawlty Towers but with a smashingly wonderful local take on the genre.  It’s very funny to see a black guy act like a white guy especially when it’s done so cleverly that it doesn’t feel as contrived as something like The Coconuts or Leon Schuster’s stereotypical slapstick. It is a slicker, and a funnier kind of black-stick, and I’d love to see more of it.

The moose is portrayed by enormous palm fronds which are painted white.  It gives the play a fantastical and slightly surreal flavour. In one of the final scenes Thozama stands up to her nemesis and a fierce and well-choreographed battle ensues.

The story of how Lara Foot stumbled upon the idea for Karoo Moose is itself very interesting.   She relates how she was in Sweden around ten years ago with her young son and her child minder, Thozama.  They passed a restaurant in Stockholm which displayed a huge head of a moose in the window.  Thozama asked Lara what kind of animal it is and Lara explained that it is a moose.  Thozama then said, “Oh, when I was a young girl living in the Eastern Cape, I think I killed one of those and ate it.”  The imagery of a moose in the Karoo stayed with Lara until she decided to write about it.  She explains that she has always felt the children in the village needs some king of magical event to free them from abuse, ‘to break the cycle of violence’.


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