Dispatches From Abroad: South African Playwright Delves into Township Life In "Itsoseng"
“Love will save us.”
On a nearly empty stage with an old chest in its center, Omphile Molusi captivates his audience with a single statement: love can save people from themselves.
Molusi tells the story of his life spent living in the township of Itsoseng, which is located in the northwest province of South Africa. The one-man production, called "Itsoseng," is a chance for the 31-year-old actor and playwright to delve into social issues through art.
"I think about seventy percent of it is based on my life," said Molusi.
When the town of Itsoseng is mentioned on the news, is it often because of violence, crime or poverty. The play seeks to tell the story of the people who live there, the ones who struggle and seek a better life for themselves.
At its core the play is a love story between Mawilla, the protagonist, and Dolly, the woman with whom he falls in love. Unfortunately, Mawilla cannot save Dolly, a prostitute, from the harsh reality of her life. Mawilla helplessly watches her slowly unravel and the two struggle and deal with issues like unemployment, homicide and rape. The story goes beyond the town’s statistics and deals with what it’s like for the people who live there.
Molusi commands the stage for the 1 hour and 20 minute performance with no breaks, taking the audience through a riveting show filled with despair, hope and confusion.
He wrote the story first as an essay, but following the death of his friend he was compelled to turn it into a play. "The minute you start talking politics on stage people automiatically shut down," said Molusi. "I had to use a lot of the personal to get to the politics."
Throughout the play Molusi impersonates characters without fully becoming anyone other than the main character. The narration tells the story with loose dramatics throughout. Despite the political commentary, the core message of the play is love, which people from any background can understand. This play tells the story of a love kept apart by the uncontrollable circumstances of a broken country.
He has toured this play throughout Africa and abroad at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008. Recently, he performed it at the Grahamstown South African National Festival.
The name Itsoseng means “wake yourself up” and with this play Molusi said he hopes audiences do just that.
See the video below to hear Molusi describe the play in his own words.
Reach contributing writer Tallie here.