Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Hayani is an original play reflecting on the meaning of home in the context of South Africa since its transition. The play explores the stories of two young South African males who both travel back home and in doing so they journey towards better understanding of who they are and what it really means to be a South African.
I would really have loved to be able to give Hayani a Highly Recommended rating, as in many ways it deserved one. This story about young boys growing up was performed very well with lots of energy and skilful characterisation by the two main actors. However what let the whole thing down was the very confused narrative of the piece, which left you utterly baffled as to who was who and what was going on.
The story started with two boys, talking about taking the journey home each year to see their families; their youthful exuberance and excitement about being freed from the city palpable in their mannerisms and voices. Yet as the story progressed, with the two actors playing all the roles and dipping into the past to tell the stories of how their parents met, the clarity became utterly lost. It seemed that the actors were interchanging roles with one another, so it was very hard to keep track of whose story you were listening to and which boys’ parents were being depicted. This was frustrating as I was engaged with the stories and felt invested in the characters, but ended up having to scour the text for small clues to point me in the direction of some sense, which rarely came. I think that it would make an enormous difference to have some simple props or costume to signify the main characters. This wouldn’t detract too much from the spare simplicity of the piece but would make the audience’s experience infinitely better.
A nice element of the piece was the onstage guitarist who provided a near-constant underscore of music for the show. This added texture and colour to the show and helped to create an atmosphere onstage, which was important as there was no set or props whatsoever.
As mentioned, the performances of Atandwa Kani and Nat Ramabulana were skilled, and they convincingly played a wide range of characters, from an old Afrikaner woman to their ten year old selves. Their coming of age story was interesting as it was set against the backdrop of the end of apartheid in South Africa. They didn’t dwell on the politics, but it was interesting and clear to see how they affect everything, and the past and present injustices and inequalities imbue all aspects of life.