Set in the shadow of Cape Town's Table Mountain - wonderfully conjured by a
huge wall of stacked orange beer crates - and presented as part of the
Celebrate South Africa festival of all things cultural hailing from this
country as it finds a new identity, Suip! is hardly, however, a
cheerful tourist advertisement for the new South Africa.
The title - pronounced "sap" - refers to the practice of drinking alcohol to
excess. And the show is a rough, ragged but riveting piece of street theatre
that explores this phenomenon amongst a group of Cape Town "bergies"
(homeless, alcoholic Cape Coloured street dwellers, one of them recognisable
- as here in the UK - by the Big Issue shoulder bag he's sporting).
In the vivid, bare-bones style of Heinrich Reisenhofer's production, a
cast of five - accompanied by an onstage percussionist who provides constant
musical punctuation and background - tell their highly charged, intimate and
personal stories of life on the streets, and their dependence on drink to
get them through the days and nights. South Africa may be free now, but it's
not made much difference to them: they're still imprisoned by their poverty
Sometimes polemical, occasionally poignant, frequently hilarious and
ultimately shocking, not all of these stories are fully realised, but what
is really an impressionistic series of sketches is given shape and texture
in Reisenhofer and Oscar Peterson's script by the warmth and connection
established by the exemplary company who bring it so fully to life.
So totally do they inhabit their characters - and the entire audience,
with whom they establish an instant rapport right at the top of the show by
rushing in and begging for coins so that they can buy an alcoholic
round, and maybe a bit of ganja (marijuana) too - that, however sketchily
their stories emerge, we nevertheless feel intimately connected to each and
every one of them.
Reisenhofer's resourceful staging also impresses - a supermarket
trolley becomes both a police car and a jail cell, and a judge's wig and
gown are simply a set of empty toilet rolls and a bin bag.
The result is an altogether terrific piece of rough but always ready