Life, etc

‘Rainbow Scars’: picking at the psychic wounds of the nation

By Lesley Stones 8 November 2013

If one rainbow family cannot hold together in harmony, what chance does an entire country stand? By LESLEY STONES.

Playwright Mike Van Graan has delivered another powerful piece of theatre that examines a situation under the microscope then pans out to show that this is a microcosm of us all.

‘Rainbow Scars’ examines the effects of a white middle class family adopting a black child, Lindiwe. It’s a familiar situation today, but what are less familiar are the scars it inflicts on each side of the equation.

It’s a wonderful piece of theatre that wraps up its message in humour, affection, anxiety and conflict, in that descending order of unhappiness.

The emotive script is brought to life by a superb trio of actors. Mbulelo Grootboom has the hardest task as Sicelo, the cousin of the adopted child. We first meet him as a meek and frightened boy being sentenced to jail at one side of the stage, in a clever juxtaposition to the home where his young cousin is growing up in comfort.

Grootboom is perfect for the role, morphing into a respectable but helpless man who cannot find work despite being told that if he got a good education, a good job would follow.

One memorable moment pitches Lindiwe (Kertrice Maitisa) against him, where she berates him for expecting a hand up instead of making his own way in life. Look in the mirror, Lindiwe.

Maitisa is a gem of an actress, young and spunky but with the depth to convincingly question who she has become. She starts off precocious and confident, cushioned in ignorance about the plight of others, then shaken by an exposure to the life she could have had.

It’s held together by Jennifer Steyn as Ellen the mother, a calm and cool presence doing her bit for South Africa and seeing it all disintegrate. Meanwhile, the multi-layered play touches on issues of personal morality and integrity as well as the broader sweep of the changing social landscape.

Van Graan uses his script to expose the emotional impact on all sides, and to question the good people think they are doing by taking cultural integration into their homes. He’s brilliant at asking questions, although not so good at providing answers, probably because there are none.

You leave with a sense that even if you think you have done everything, it isn’t enough. And perhaps it was the wrong thing anyway. The family helped Lindiwe, but at its own cost, and left scars on a child who now struggles to find her own identity and fit in anywhere.

It’s tightly directed by Lara Bye and effectively presented with the characters at times addressing the audience with their questions and conflicts. On a couple of occasions the stirring, atmosphere-enhancing music drowned out a few sentences, and I cursed to miss even a moment of this intelligent work.

‘Rainbow Scars’ only lasts an hour, but it’s an enjoyable and provocative hour that lingers long after the action ends. It’s a relevant, riveting play for a nation struggling to find its way to the elusive pot of gold. DM

“Rainbow Scars” is on at the Barney Simon Theatre at the Market Theatre until December 8. Tickets are R79 – R158 and performance Times are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm

Photo: Mbulelo Grootboom, Kertrice Maitisa and Jennifer Steyn. (Photo Ruphin Coudyzer)


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