“I See You and I love you…” A production of identity evaluation, generational interaction and cultural understanding. I See You, introduces and engulfs you into the South African heritage. Based on a real encounter, the play addresses the questions of a new generation, Post-Apartheid, South Africans encountering their country’s traumatised past, dealing with humanity, hurt and darkness. I See You, a show that questions culture and the nuance of the world, informed by experience, collective thought and profound exploration, is a show not to be missed.
Written by Mongiwekhaya and directed by Noma Dumezwen the show was developed within the new writing programme in South Africa, beginning in 2013. This debut of both writing and directorship is an exciting amalgamation of agency and creative minds, evident within the shows effectiveness and authenticity. Since then not only has the show been produced but Mongiwekhaya is now a member of PlayRiot, a collective of South African playwrights committed to telling bold, contemporary, culturally identified stories.
I See You engages you into the complex world of culture, identity and history, interrogating the politics of a country that has come on a multifaceted journey. Ben meets Skinn for a night out, but the party is interrupted by the police. Ben, a young student who doesn’t know his own history, is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and officer Buthelezi, a freedom fighter, can’t let go. The show consisting of a seven person cast, is diverse and incapable of assumption, presenting individuals who all have a history and a future, within a continuous narrative. The writing and directing challenges the individuals to interact, overwrought with emotion, experience and corruption, often causing the interaction and abuse presented on stage.
An arena on three sides, this show is minimalistic but effective. With strip lighting above the stage, that often reflects the mood of the scene, the lighting is atmospheric, bringing tone and warmth to the action. At the back of the stage there appears to be a flat covered with gauze material, that duals up as a DJ booth, providing the music for the piece. Although the technical elements are apparent, the predominate component in this show is the acting. The naturalistic directing combined with graphic writing, gives voice to an original play that is worthy of listening to. The writing and action of the piece is pitched perfectly, encompassing humour, drama and characterisation that is engaging and charismatic.
I See You is a performance that moves between the past, present and future in one fluid action, all questioning ‘what it means to be South African?’ The show is filled with intense interaction, presenting realistic violence and abuse that displays the characteristics, of a man fighting for all that he knows. This show presents a search for identity, within the ever-changing face of politics, who knows what the appropriate way is to act within a country that has undergone such strife. Throughout the performance there is a heightened persuasion towards the contemporary, embodied within the character of Ben. “A Cheese Boy” who has forgotten his roots, Ben portrays modern etiquette, forgetting his native tongue and dance in the process. This provides the initial action, however within this there are many other narratives to consider. I See You, interrogates the moment when all the narratives cross, collide and interact, performing a dialogue that is utterly informed and relatable.
The show offers thought and consideration of a country that is still in development and of a young age. It is authentic, original and visually engaging. Although, I question the plays heritage, in a post show talk it is confirmed that the play will tour to the Market Theatre, Johannesburg. I personally look forward to hearing the reaction and reception of a piece that tells the tale of the people. Furthermore, I wait with excitement to see where this play develops and the future of the collective, PlayRiot. Mongiwekhaya, creates an enduring show, that enlightens and informs whilst questioning the construct of cultural identity. I leave the production inspired by the bold, ambitious and authentic tale that is portrayed, but moreover surprised at the effectiveness of the play within London and its relevance to a diverse audience. 4/5
Review written by Meg Mattravers.
I See You is currently showing at the Royal Court Theatre until Saturday 26th March. For more information on the production, visit here…