On Friday 17 July 2015 at Market Theatre, I saw a play called Crepuscule. The play is an adaptation of a short story written by Can Themba. It is about a love affair between a married white woman and a black man in Sophiatown. Set in the 1950s/60’s when interracial relationships where illegal according to the Immorality Act, it shows two people who are willing to risk their lives because of what they feel for each other.
Directed by Khanyelihle Don Gumede, a dynamic and award winning young director, performed by Leroy Gopal as (Can Themba), Kate Liquorish as (Jean Hart), Lerato Mvelase as (Baby/Kleinboy), Conrad Kemp as (Malcom), Thami Ngoma as (Lethabo/Mama Dora).
Can Themba works as a journalist for Drum magazine. He is smart and sharp in speech. With a charming personality, he is something of a lady’s man. Jennifer is a young petit lady, who is a photographer, born in South Africa and educated in London where she met her husband.
In one of Jean’s trips around Johannesburg, she meets a gentleman who offers to carry her bags. “Why do you want to carry my bags, do I look incapable?” she said. This leads to an interesting conversation between strangers. Jean is swept off her feet by Can’s sharp responses and starts to enjoy his company.
After a few of these meetings, Can invites her over to Sophiatown where he stayed. She’s met with disapproval by the family but Can continues to charm his way into her life. Unable to resist Can, they sneak around dodging the police in Sophiatown. He takes her to the sheeben, where she met his friends, Kleinboy and Stan.
They joked together, enjoyed alcohol, and then spent the nights together. This is an illegal love affair – with a white, married woman – that would get them into deep trouble. Can finds himself cast in a world whose rules detail how he’s life is supposed to play out, who he’s supposed to be and who he is supposed to fall in love with.
In between scenes the characters sang local jazz music which was popular at the time. The dancing invited the audience and interacted with them. The style of dressing was your elegant man’s wear, suits and hats, and cocktail dresses in bright colours and matching heels for the ladies. The actions during the song made it more effective as it added character to the performance and made it more interesting.
Lerato Mvelase stands out in the two characters she plays. From the local drunk guy, to Can’s local girlfriend, her acting and stage presence is exceptional. Leroy Gopal’s electric voice cut through the audience and commanded you to listen. The dialogue was natural. The writer did a sterling job.
It really opened my eyes to ideas and proved to me that if you really put your mind to it, you can come up with such creative, unique and simple ideas that have a huge impact on to the audience. It also taught me that you don’t need a huge production with huge costumes to create a power performance. This work will inspire conversation about who we are trying to become as a growing nation and what remains from our dark and strong past.
By Lerato Modibedi