CCA, 6th November
Skierlik, written and performed by Phillip Dikotia, tells the story of a South African villager called Thomas whose isolated world becomes devastated by murder and media attention. The play is based upon the village of Skierlik, which in 2008 was the victim of a racially motivated killing spree from a seventeen year-old white boy. The play is a monologue performed on a simple, dark set with a box in the centre. Despite the one man cast, the play is engaging, thought provoking and emotionally hard hitting.
The play begins with Thomas traveling home to Skierlik from Johannesburg, after the massacre. The journey introduces Thomas’ character, personality and his way of speaking. When traveling home he “just kept on walking and walking and walking” and uses a similar pattern of repetition to describe other events in the play. This use of repetition seems to symbolise an eternal struggle in Thomas’ life which is present in everything he does – a both effective and moving technique.
There is no use of recorded sound until the moment that the shooting occurs. The sound of gunshots come as a huge surprise and fit in well with the overall shock of the moment. The gunshots work in correlation with Thomas’ slow motion circling of the centre-stage box and usual repetitive nature of speaking, as he explained how the boy ‘was just shooting and shooting and shooting’. Thomas’ explaination soon became an began impersonation of the language used by the boy. He was speaking in South African, but again there was a noticeable repetition of particular words such as ‘bloody kaffirs’. The use of strong racial language and the way that Thomas bellows really hits home the horror of the situation, and how it must have all happened so quickly.
To watch a single man captivate an audience and keep up a high level of energy for over an hour and a quarter is impressive enough, but the importance of Skierlik comes through the different messages it conveys. The key message being, that all should be respected in death and ‘men in black suits’ bringing about ‘change’ cannot resurrect loved ones.
[Sorley Mclean – @sorleymclean]