1 - 27 August
The biggest weakness of this political satire is that South African apartheid finished almost two decades ago, and the dated subject-matter therefore doesn't pack the punch it once might have.
What we have instead is an exaggerated sketch of what South Africa may once have been like, accessed via Woza Albert's central satirical question of "What would happen if Jesus returned and came to South Africa? Two multi-talented performers, Mncedisi Baldwin Shabangu and Peter Mashigo, bring the scenes to life, aided by a couple of boxes, a wide assortment of costume items, and, most amusingly, all the vocal effects they can dream of, be they engine noises, buzzing flies or machine-gun fire. The smorgasbord of characters brought forth , from most walks of life but focussing on the urban poor. They spend the first half of the play wondering how they would receive the second coming of Christ (or "Morena" as the show dubs him), with responses variously humble ("I would ask him to let me go to school"), amusing (labourers would ask him to do their jobs for them with miracles) and violent, as the army who would imprison and kill him.
We are led to imagine Jesus does indeed make a visit, and chaos ensues as the powers that be , brand him a terrorist and imposter and try to do away with him - he is rather good at pointing out the inequalities of the nation. The enduring impression of the play's sketch-like narrative is that the ordinary people are comic and lovable, and the ruling caste tyrannical and cruel. The play takes a long time to express this, and without the urgency which current political circumstance would once have supplied, the action can drag.
The pair's attempts at audience interaction are also quite ill-advised - the performers appear to want something quite complicated from the spectators they pick, which is never well-explained (the frequent dashes of what I assume is Afrikaans don't help matters) and tended to leave their victims looking (and feeling) a bit stupid. I was such a one, so maybe I feel it particularly strongly, but it's neither fair nor productive to pick on people like that.
These moments aside, the major draw of this show is undoubtedly the enthusiastic and winning performances of Shabangu and Mashigo, who stream with sweat by the end of the show from sheer exertion. I like that. The play itself makes worse use of their talents than most two-handers would, and, aside from the occasional funny line or neat parody, doesn't muster the force it could in its prime.