Omnipotent Grip of Corruption’s Fist

Posted: June 19, 2012 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
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First published in Cape Times June 2012.

It has been a long time since an injustice inflicted on a character left me feeling this outraged.  Accomplished actress, Anthea Thompson’s character Gabby is the protagonist whose circumstances left me feeling quite provoked.  The fact that I am a woman, and one of the key topics rape, probably fuelled my fury even more. Mike van Graan’s razor sharp writing and relentlessly paced plot certainly contributed.

Mike van Graan

Gabby is the white personal assistant to a prominent black minister with an impressive anti-apartheid struggle record. One dark night he rapes her, or ‘allegedly’ rapes her, depending on which side of the fence you are most comfortable on. Her ex-husband, who is the ruling party’s smooth-talking crack filler, is sent to dissuade her from pressing charges which would obviously be very damaging to the party’s reputation, especially considering that it is only 6 weeks before the country’s next election. However this is only the basic plot. There are lots of little sub-plots that add to Gabby’s dilemma as the complicated relationships and situations are laid bare by the actors.

The story is presented as an edgy courtroom drama thriller with a strong and unique South African flavour. The dialogue is snappy, and pared down to the very fine bone of necessity. Images projected onto a screen create a modern feel.  Green Man Flashing gives stalwart crime drama television shows, such as CSI, a good run for its money.

It is not fair to try and single out a performance, or actor, as the entire cast is clearly committed and very skilled. Performances are honest and brutal but without unnecessary melodrama.

When van Graan’s production opened in 2004 it was considered ground-breaking, brave, and very relevant, especially in the light of President Jacob Zuma corruption scandal, and ‘alleged’ – there is that word again – rape case which followed shortly after the play’s release.

Today the characters and their situations are as fitting as ever. Gender based violence in South Africais still one of our biggest scourges, as is the HIV and Aids infection rate, especially amongst women.  On the one hand you have Gabby presented with an opportunity to lay bare the violent sexual act which has been committed against and to give thousands of women a voice. On the other hand you have the men who selflessly saved thousands, maybe millions of lives from apartheid’s oppression. And then there is the omnipotent fist of corruption which, today, is holding our country in a deadlock by threatening to impoverish the state coffers and by bringing service delivery to a grinding halt.

Fortunately van Graan’s play does not preach to its audience or force us to pick sides. Rather, it allows us to grapple with the issues at hand, given our own circumstances or point of view.


* Tickets are from R50 to R85. Bookings via Computicket, 08619150000 or 0214217695.

GREEN MAN FLASHING. Written by Mike van Graan. Directed by Hennie van Greunen. Lighting Design by Hennie van Greunen and Jeanne Steenkamp. Set design by Marcel Meyer  With Anthea Thompson, Susan Danford, Thami Mbongo, Charlton George and Wiseman Sithole. Artscape Arena Theatre at 7h30Pm on Monday and Tuesday. Thereafter at 8h15PM. Until 23 Jun. ASTRID STARK reviews.


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