Powerful play 'Truth' relives ed of apartheid in S. Africa
September 14, 2007
The Whiting was witness to an astonishing event Wednesday evening as a cross section of the community flooded in to experience the emotionally charged South African production ‘Truth in Translation.’ Mere words alone won’t be able to convey the strength and impact of this brilliant performance.
The horror of apartheid enforced violent separateness between blacks and whites in South Africa for more than 40 years. Although eventually outlawed, memories of atrocities continued to fester and foster division. Relief only began to emerge with the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, wherein both victims and perpetrators of violence could come forward to testify and seek reparation or amnesty.
This production features a marvelous kaleidoscope of those hearings as seen through the eyes of the victims and the interpreters who translated their testimonies into the 11 official languages of South Africa. The stories are woven with dialogue, music and video, but the strength is in the characterizations that flow from the 11 South African performers who make up this troupe.
Indeed, the story emerges partly from the cast’s own personal histories as they each carry their own inherited memories of this frightful time. The script relies also on the trial transcripts and more pointedly on actual interviews with witnesses and testifiers.
Although portrayed as unique individuals, the interpreters often become so involved with their translations that their own deep-seated feelings spill over repeatedly as they struggle to communicate the truth of what they are hearing. What they must relate is often emotionally raw and difficult to hear, but it is clearly cleansing as well.
Masterfully, the rich music of Hugh Masekela ties stories and the people together as performed superbly by this group of actor/singers. The musical precision of each piece is stunning even when the lyrics occasionally speak of violence and death.
Moments of humor and love meld with brutality and fear as the scenes shift from courtroom to barroom to beach to graveyard and beyond. Much of this transition is handled with lighting and video projection.
At a post performance talk-back Wednesday, cast members described their roles as more than mere acting. Many feel themselves to be on a mission to spread the idea of reconciliation and to let the world know that it is okay to practice forgiveness.
‘Truth in Translation’ - in Flint as part of a weeklong residency by the cast and crew - is one of those lingering shows. More experienced than just observed, it makes a psychic impression not easily forgotten.