Questions generally considered taboo in God is Woman
Artscape Theatre’s New Voices Programme is an annual programme that enables emerging playwrights to develop and create new work, with the hopes of exposing them to a bigger platform, by presenting their texts in the Artscape’s arena theatre from 1- 12 October 2019.
The programme, headed by Rafiek Mammon, aims to highlight topics that speak on behalf of the marginalized people in society that have little to no voices. Each year, only a few productions are selected to partake in the programme. This year’s intake included staged readings of; ‘The After Party’, written by Kaulana Williams and directed by Lee-Ann Van Rooi, ‘Kwakhanya’, written by Siyasanga Vumani and directed by Fatima Dike, ‘Look Alike Terrorist’, written by Gertrude Fester- Wicomb and directed by Dara Beth and lastly the full production of “God is a Woman”, written by Caitlin Wiggill.
Directed by Tara Notcutt, with the cast including Terrance Makapan, Llandi Beeslaar, Susanne Beyers and Loren Loubser. The production explores themes that are currently quite relevant to the South African context, such as transgender identity and religion. It poses questions that would generally be considered taboo if not created through an artistic medium like theatre.
What is God’s gender?
Are we all created in God’s perfect image?
Whether or not God makes mistakes?
The protagonist (Terence Makapan) journey towards accepting her trans identity and the idea that God is a woman starts when her mother, a seamstress, ropes her in to fitting on a dress (as her body is the ideal length and size) for one of her clients. Andre, a beautiful vision in the dress, grows attached to it and starts questioning her identity and the identity of God. The context and questions asked and addressed throughout the play have a universal sense of importance. Most people have at least once in their lives questioned who they are and if not vocally stated, questioned the probability of God being real or not.
The production includes three accompanying and contrasting characters; Andre’s mother (Llandi Beeslaar) who is in denial of her child’s transgender identity and does not believe in God. His grandmother (Susanne Beyers) who believes in “Mama God” and stands firm in her beliefs, and her best-friend, Amanda (Loren Loubser), who wants to believe in God, but is yet to discover God for herself. The variety and contrast between these characters and their different ideologies make for an entertaining, thought-provoking and touching production.
The story delves into each character’s thoughts through a series of monologues narrating the happenings of Andre’s birth and discovering “Mama God” for the first time. Each character finds themselves working through their past traumas, whilst simultaneously questioning or reiterating their identity. Andre’s story is also explored through non- verbal communication and subtext with energizing moments of comic relief, most of them instigated by Andre’s grandmother. Wiggil crafted this character in the likeness of her existing grandmother, who is believed to be humorous but also extremely enlightening. She is a wise, intelligent woman with comedic lines and comic timing. Susanne’s performance was endearing and captivating. It had the audience in stitches, waiting to hear what she would say next.
Tara Notcutt brought this text to life by tapping into what resonates with audience members most. Making use of story-telling techniques that focus on raw emotion, peppered with a bit of comic relief. Most of us must have felt like an outcast at some point in our lives. We all have the best friend that holds nothing back, an elderly figure with a lifetime of wisdom, and a parent(s) with specific hopes and dreams for their child's future.
The set was visually appealing. With a garden area stage right, a kitchen table center stage and Andre’s grandmother’s knitting couch stage left. The set was well balanced with a wide array of colors that appealed to the eye. Lighting and sound was used in such a way that it beautifully coincided with the mood that was needed for specific moments of the production. Thus creating the desired atmosphere with each scene. As a whole this production had me questioning my own identity as a South African. Wanting to know if who I am, is who I am meant to be. It is thought-provoking and relatable, it has the delved deep into the hearts of those who have directly or indirectly dealt with some of the issues the production tackles and Wiggil’s script was beautifully brought to life
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