Life, etc

Words are weapons, and Youngleson brings the whole arsenal

By Carla Lever 27 September 2014

If playing with fire were a theatre pastime, The Rust Co-Operative would be blazing the house down. By CARLA LEVER.

It’s a tough call to make a piece of theatre about a terrorist-in-training. It’s surely shooting yourself in the foot to ask that the audience sympathise with them.

…But that’s exactly what Penny Youngleson and Philip Rademeyer have done with Full Stops on Your Face, the provocative show that will get you talking for all the right reasons.

Yes, our protagonist is angry. Yes, our protagonist plans to kill, and kill a lot. Yes, our protagonist is from a Muslim family. …and yes, she’s a woman.

Women don’t carry out mass killings as a lone gunner, we’re informed. Oh yes they do, proclaims our protagonist (played by Iman Isaacs). They do when it counts.

Turns out, it counts for her. Turns out she’s been counting for some time now. The statistics, that is. The women abused, raped, murdered. The women she knows but doesn’t want to know about. As South African women, she claims, we are under attack. As to her own planned attack? “This is self-defence,” she claims.

Sure some may judge her for her violent response to a violent society. Funnily enough, for a woman on the edge, that doesn’t really seem to cut much ice.

Still judging? “It’ll be hard to point fingers when I’ve sliced your fingers from your fists,” she says.

Right then.

As she points out, this ain’t some GOP-framed, contraceptive pill-based “war on women”…this is the real deal. An all-out, surface-to-air missile, spill your guts invasion. Whether an invasion of privacy, of space, of self…our protagonist is arming herself against a sea of troubles. She’s gearing up for guerilla warfare and, for fifty minutes, we get to go in the trenches with her. Because, if there truly is a war against South African women, she’s damn well going to be winning it.

Under Youngleson’s direction, Isaacs adopts a range of characters, building a web of words, a community of characters as we travel a narrative landscape at once alienatingly bleak and comfortingly familiar.

Isaacs’ adaptability made the smooth transition between these characters a treat. Whether she channeled the fierce defiance of the protagonist, the wearied fatalism of her Muslim mother or the conspiritorial hopefulness of an old Jewish woman, her wholehearted commitment to the character was apparent.

Whilst some portrayals – indeed, some of the protagnist’s movements themselves – bordered on caricature, perhaps the most profound moments were those subtly understated, heartfelt callings from peripheral community members. The soft confusion of a young Muslim man, caught as hopelessly between the pitfalls of gendered life as any of his sisters, asks, very simply, to find a way through the PC partner labyrinth to be happy. How happy? “Happy enough.” It’s a beautiful moment.

Isaacs intensity and poise make, at times, for a powerful piece of theatre. Go and see this one. DM

Full Stops on Your Face – Galloway theatre, 26 September 21h00; 27 September 22h00; 28 September 14h00 and 29 September 17h00. Tickets cost R80 and R65 (concessions).

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