The House of Truth is play by Siphiwo Mahala. It premiered at the National Arts Festival in 2016 where it received rave reviews and it is now at The Market Theatre, a very natural home for this work. It is only on for a shortish run (10-29 January 2017). It is already receiving more rave reviews. I think it is worthy of them.
The play is about Daniel Canodoce “Can” Themba (21 June 1924 – 1968), a writer most famous for being the assistant editor of the Drum Magazine in the fifties and for writing The Suit, originally as a short story. The play gives a considerable amount of detail about him, which is not surprising, because the playwright is currently pursuing doctoral studies on the life and works of Can Themba. Virtually the only thing we don’t see is his early death in Swaziland, presumably from alcohol related health breakdown.
Directed by Vanessa Cook, The House of Truth stars Sello Maake kaNcube as Can Themba. I loved the transition from bright young hope to jaded drunk. It is captured so subtly and gently that my compassion was triggered and I wished I could go back and reverse all his life’s disappointments. The only thing that I don’t know whether I liked or not is his portayal, recounting really, of Nelson Mandela visiting him On the one hand he gets Mandela’s pace and even voice all wrong. On the other hand, that rings incredibly true. I couldn’t create Mandela’s voice and pace if I were telling a tale in which Mandela was a character. So, it is either terrible acting or brilliant directing. Given that Sello Maake kaNcube is a very good actor and Vanessa Cook is a brilliant director, I am going with the latter.
Other credits go to Bruce Koch for lighting design and to Noluthando Lobese for set and costume design. Neo Ntsoma is the official photographer (and took the two photographs here).
The Market Theatre was once known for its role in letting the South African public know about the ravages of apartheid. It now tells the stories of those who told those stories. It is a place where one can unravel the intricacies of South Africa’s past and present through the medium of theatre. It is still a happening place. The House of Truth is one more event that makes it so.
One word of warning. You HAVE to book. This production is playing to full houses.