Gcina Mhlope is one of South Africa’s foremost story-tellers. Her play Have You Seen Zandile? is a straightforward, guileless biographical account of her childhood. It is one of those works which is achingly, agonisingly plausible. It should be. It is authentic.
Born in a black neighborhood near Durban, Zandile is a “love child” raised by her grandmother. She grows up believing that becoming a teacher is the most honorable station she could achieve in life.
Then the unthinkable happens.
There is a lot of tenderness, even sentimentality, in the play. Zandile’s loneliness even when she was with her grandmother leads her to have an invisible friend. This is compounded in her new circumstances, except now she has a real friend with whom to share the joys and fears of becoming a woman.
The performances are convincing. Zandile is played by MoMo Matsunyane and she manages to radiate the exhuberance, innocence and vulnerability of any eight year old child, while all the other characters (gogo, mother and friend) are portrayed by Zethu Dlomo. The work is directed by Khutjo Green, with a superb production design by Wilhelm Disbergen who creates a playground with chalk figures painted by Marsha Holtzhauzen, a hopscotch field and some remarkably effective set furniture and simple props. Costuming is by Linda Wilson.