Review: Delela –deliciously cheeky play with twisty bits and a Shakespearean undertow- debut season at National Arts Festival, Makhanda

Bridging the arc of history towards justice – Thrilling to see Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni’s new play, Delela at its opening performance at National Arts Festival, Makhanda on The Curated Programme.  Delela is on for four performances: June 30 (8pm), July 1 (8pm) and July 2 (noon and 6pm) at Graeme College. Details here:

Delela is a deliciously cheeky play with twisty bits and a Shakespearean undertow with the age old story for power and domination – and sticky potholes filled with facing off race, diversity politics, vanity philanthropy, racial and economic privilege and a lot more. Outstanding performances by Katlego Lebogang, Frances Sholto-Douglas and Daniel Barney Newton with Tiisetso chitchatting from audience, as the journalist and Dara Beth, cuing them in from her tech box.  It’s a play with a narrative, wrapping itself around itself; looping in and overlaying versions. Which version do we believe and hold onto and buy into?  Tiisetso’s dialogue snaps and snazzles. Katlego Lebogang and Frances Sholto-Douglas strut in fabulous power shoes and Daniel Barney Barnett is garbed in his too-short pants (fashionista cool in some circles).

I won’t plot spoil but it’s a lot of fun and it’s very serious. As Tiisetso mused in a recent interview with TheCapeRobyn, diversity and transformation is not easy and requires care and a great deal of reflection and consideration in the process of “bending the arc of justice”. []

In talking about the “arc of justice”, the protagonist siblings, cite Martin Luther King. But I see that he said:” We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. Dr Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Speech given at the National Cathedral, March 31, 1968.

Here we are in South Africa 2022 and Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni has used the frame of a charitable philanthropic family trust to ignite vital conversations around “arcs” of justice.  She has delivered a hyper entertaining play, staged in a way that it riffs off itself- and all of us – watching.

Loved Delela.  It’s very different to her acclaimed Sainthood. Great that she has taken a radical turn (it is a radical play in many ways) – in terms of the territory and in the performative presentation as an interview with us as viewers or perhaps witnesses. Delela is a stylish, funny play which cuts deep into the grit of issues which need to be engaged with by everyone.

Putting this quickie review. Will add to it. Last weekend of National Arts Festival 2022. On until Sunday – July 3. Get to Delela. Get to the wrap up weekend.