Responses in South Africa

2006 - 2007

‘All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born,’ WB Yeats wrote in the poem Easter 1916 about the Irish nationalist uprising. Those are the lines that came to mind as I watched the play Truth in Translation, a production that seamlessly captures the experiences of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission interpreters. It is a beautiful production, but a different kind of beauty that does not have anything at all to do with being pretty… The production is intense and much of this is borne by the music… The music, all composed and arranged by Masekela, carries the burden of memory, of pain, of the sordid experiences and of human strength.  Even though the translators were told not to get involved, to detach themselves from the stories that they translated, it is through the music that they become one with their subjects, and where their simultaneous positions as screens and as subjects of the commission ebbs and flows.’
- Percy Zvomuya, Mail and Guardian

‘Combining the A-List of South African theatre talent with a fresh, beautiful Hugh Masekela music score and a storyline taken from a fresh new perspective, director Michael Lessac’s Truth in Translation is set to be of one of those rare productions that will, truly, put South Africa on the world map come 2010 and beyond… The good news is that Lessac has, definitely, done his research, and thereby appears to understand exactly what South African theatre is all about. Not one set piece or gesture comes across as anything but distinctly South Africa and Lessac even adds some of his own touches that give the production a sense of class while still maintaining a home grown feel… Truth in Translation is an original, spirited piece of South African theatre that certainly, takes you on a decidedly different journey than what you would usually expect. In this respect it authentically captures the essence of both our unique brand of theater and our overall cultural identities. It will indeed leave you spell bound and moved long after you have left the theatre.’
– Adam Levin, The Writing Studio.

‘The complexity of this piece is richly textured by Hugh Masekela’s seamlessly integrated music (especially in the first half) which picks up snatches of testimony and Gerhard Marx’s design of historic footage projected onto suspended clothing.’
- Adrienne Sichel, The Star Tonight

‘The play has much going for it: an unusual point of view of the TRC, an instinctive sense of irony, anomaly and of the telling detail that, given enough space, illuminates big themes. And of course the play has a strong cast, marvelous music by Hugh Masekela, and not least, a remarkable backdrop by Maja Marx. I’d see the play again just for that.’
- Robert Greig, Sunday Independent

‘It can be taken for granted that a play about the Truth and Reconciliation commission (TRC), staged at the Market theatre, with an outstanding cast, and new music by Hugh Masekela, will be an important piece of theatre. Anybody who holds an opinion on the TRC should see this play.’
- Scott Burnett, Sunday Times

‘Language is layered over language, lives are too – and through interlinking of complicated thoughts and accounts of hideous apartheid events, we are given to understand the interpreters’ lives, their contradictions, their values, their doubts… With not one plot, but many, and not one focus, but many, the production is unstructured, but offers a moving and direct representation of a coming of maturity of individuals, of the broader fabric of the intention behind the TRC. This is undoubtedly one of the more important works the Market has staged recently. It is well-conceived, tight in presentation and deeply meaningful on a range of very human levels.’
- Robyn Sassen, Jewish Report SA

‘Congratulations to Michael and all of you on a magnificent piece of theatre. I loved the ironic distancing, the modulated approach and the polyphonic register in which the unforced circulation of the horrendous and the ridiculous leaves one, not exactly purged, but unshackled to think about the reconciliation of the tragic and the comic in life.’
-Andries Oliphant, Arts and Culture Trust

‘There is a line from an essay by Ingrid de Kok in which she argues that at times of rapid social transformation, ‘[c]ultural institutions and artists face an especially challenging task, of permitting contradictory voices to be heard as testimony or in interpretations, not in order to ‘resolve’ the turbulence, but to recompose it. ‘This you managed beautifully.’
- Dr. Susan Spearey

‘I experienced Truth in Translation and I was moved in many ways and in a way that made me open another eye in me. Seeing the piece of art presented was really a beautiful experience and I lack better words for describing the work you have done. Keep up the great work.’- Themba Lonzi, Healing of Memories

‘It was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had for a long time – to be able to talk to such humble, honest and great actors about issues we all share and are a part of.’
- Dylan Wray, Shikaya

‘Thank you so much for that wonderful session! The students loved the chance to gain some insight into the process. And for some it was the first time they really started analysing, questioning, unpacking apartheid for themselves. Too often I simply get their parents’ opinions spewing from their mouths, without insight or an ability to see things from a new perspective. And they’ve become immune to my protests. This experience has made them re-think the familiar mantra of excuses and denials…The lesson uncovered all sorts of other hurts, other fears. It was cathartic like no other we’ve had. I know I should be used to the power of theatre by now, but experiences like this never cease to fill me with awe. And your talk allowed them that leap from theatre experience to personal journey.’
- Joan Ciro, teacher at Reddam

‘I would like to extend thanks and praise to the entire cast and production team - my husband and I postponed a trip out of Cape Town to be at the opening night at the Baxter, and were so pleased we had done so.  It was profoundly moving, and had great integrity and impact.’
- Mary Burton, TRC Commissioner

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