By Yashen Moodley
Confessions of a Large Posterior, which premiered at this year’s National Arts Festival, is the result of the combined efforts of Rhodes Drama Honours students Alude Mahali and Jess Harrison. Confessions is the compilation of two plays, A Lady and a Woman, directed by Mahali and Venus, directed by Harrison. Every show during the festival was sold out, as well as the performances held at the beginning of this term.
A Lady and a Woman is written by American playwright Shirlene Holmes, and tells the tale of an 1890s lesbian couple, Biddie and Miss Flora, and their journey into love and self-realisation. Mahali explains, “Plays such as this one become global platforms for all black lesbians to fight to tell their stories and in the process educate society and audience.” The production dealt with serious issues but Mahali manages to keep the audience on the edge of their seats with moments of wit and extreme humour.
Venus which is written by Suzan-Lori Parks (also American born) was set in the 19th century and dealt with the story of Sarah Baartman from the early 1800s. Harrison dealt with this historical matter in a darkly-comic and ironic manner creating a vibrant and humorist piece. Harrison explains, “Venus is packed with Park’s monopoly of discourse in constructing a re-examination of the quirky, caricatured society of 1815 Europe and their fascination and repulsion towards the ‘Magnificent and Endless’ posterior of The Venus.” The cast, who are all Rhodes Drama students, provide thrilling entertainment which ranged from an emotional level to moments of wild humour. Harrison manages to also give an authentic feel to the play with the cast all dressed to the tee accompanied with superb acting.
This is both Mahali’s and Harrison’s debut in the director’s chair at a National Arts Festival, although both have acted in a number of Rhodes Drama Departmental productions. This is also the first time that these plays were staged in South Africa, which sets a landmark occasion for young directing in the country and was shown at the National Arts Festival main stage.
Mahali and Harrison have created a production of international standards and their talents have not gone unnoticed. Look out for the Rhodes Drama Honours productions to be shown at the end of the 3rd term which promise brilliant entertainment.