Mr President at The South African State Theatre

Mr President

Tebogo Ditinti: Mr President is a story about a poverty-stricken young man from the township, who counts on the promise of education to afford him a better life.

Directed by Tshepang Moticoe and Dr Karima Lemmer, they both agree on the extended level of research that went into directing the piece. It speaks to the student, the graduate, the unemployed, the perpetrator and the street hustler turned drunkard. Both Moticoe and Dr Lemmer had to approach Mr President from a place of discomfort and confrontation which Nicholas Ngomane had to deliver by himself in representation of an army of the youth who find themselves in similar situations.

He takes us through the life of a once hopeful young black man to a grown man with nothing to show for his life but failure and unfulfilled promises by the government. Accompanied by melodic soprano by Monica Mhangwana, who makes it seem so natural to hit far-to-reach notes with her voice, the pair make storytelling interesting.

The set is designed to resemble the township of Ivory Park where Ngomane is from and if that is any way close to the reality of many, that is no way to live. It is against basic human rights. Mr President is a call to our President.

It is a cry for help. A desperate one at that because as things are currently, of the 7.2 million unemployed people in the first quarter of 2021, more than half (52.4%) had education levels below matric, followed by those with matric at 37.7%. Only 2.1% of the unemployed were graduates, while 7.5% had other tertiary qualifications as their highest level of education, and the majority of the people are black. Which displays a rise in gender-based violence, home invasion, substance abuse and other criminal acts and social ills.

“Mr President is about confronting the pain,” said Nicholas. Dr Lemmer said she had to have difficult conversations with some of her students at TUT where she is a lecturer. She had to tell a story from a perspective she’s only ever heard of and never experienced. As for Tshepang, Mr President changed her outlook on the story of many because she comes from the “privileged” side of the tracks.

Mr President is a piece best understood visually. Don’t count on the dialogue to guide you through it because there isn’t any. It takes silent theatre to new horizons. It reminds me a little bit of The Artist – The Silent Movie by Michael Hazanavicius. It is surely a delight for severe thespians obsessed with the depth of storytelling.

Mr President is currently running at The South African State Theatre until 17 October 2021 and is worth a watch.

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