Atandwa Kani and Nat Ramabulana collaborated in one beautiful two person performance called Hayani, meaning “Home”; the play tries to capture that concept in a South African context, and portrays the stories of two South African boys who grow up to be men. It is honest and poignant, and very funny. The two stories begin with the journey they take as children from Johannesburg to their respective homes in Port Elizabeth and Venda; and in a non-linear fashion, switching constantly between the two lives they convey the challenges they have with family, friends, with a changing South Africa in 1994. Without much props, and only accompanied by a musician on a guitar who takes sets the moods and provides rudimentary sound effects, they take the persona of their parents, of friends, and of other people who shaped their lives; they switch between these persona so easily, and believably, by simple changes in posture and accent.
The play is performed on an empty stage, merely decorated by a mural that displays the faces of their fathers and themselves at different stages of their life; on the floor of the stage a map is painted with the names of the different places that feature in the stories. Despite this, they manage to evoke very vivid scenes; perhaps the fact that the stories are the real life stories of the two actors contribute to this, it showed a deepness that I haven’t seen in a stage performance in a while.
The non-linear approach isn’t too confusing, only once – in the middle – I had to think for a moment where in the story they were, but that passed quickly. Certain parts of the play are done in Xhosa or Venda, bringing a certain feel of reality to it; some of the humour might be lost on those who don’t understand those language, but I personally don’t think it takes anything away from it, in fact it adds a richness.
Hayani is playing at the Baxter in Cape Town for the rest of August.