Driving around Cape Town, you can see the lamp post posters for Land Acts – currently showing at Kalk Bay Theatre. They feature solo superstar Daniel Mpilo Richards smiling awkwardly with a gavel in one hand and a revolver in the other. Law and disorder. It’s fair to wonder with some trepidation how anyone can take on an issue of such gravity, an issue riddled with politics, anger, desire, violence and empowerment – and bring it to stage, smiling awkwardly. Somehow, it feels like dangerous territory.
But then, we know that, as South Africans, humour is the thing that keeps us sane in the midst of madness. And the dream team (Daniel Mpilo Richards, Rob van Vuuren and Mike van Graan) that brought us the wildly popular Pay Back The Curry and State Fracture has managed to weave together a delicate and intricate piece of theatre that is both sobering and side-splitting. Some of the jokes are so fast and sharp – but obviously cheesy – that it feels like conscious cringe. Other jokes get passed around like a ball at a high-speed soccer match, scoring goal and after goal. These on-point witticisms keep the audience afloat, the mood light and the air filled with laughter, while simultaneously allowing us to move deeper and deeper into uncomfortable truths.
There’s a lot to process after Land Acts. It’s the funniest and most thought-provoking production on circuit at the moment. With such comedic and candid reflection on where we are as a collective, this play should be compulsory viewing for young and old, for people of all races. Do yourself a favour and go see it twice – there is more to take in than you can absorb in one sitting. It is historical. It is important. And in the unity of laughter, perhaps there is some healing of a very old scar.
Land Acts is on at Kalk Bay Theatre until 16 June 2018.