The beginning of the year tends to throw into focus some harsh realities all too easy to overlook during the festive period. The news is overflowing with negative statistics to the degree that those statistics can become separated from the very people they represent. Nat reminds us that behind these numbers are the very real lives of children in our poorer communities.
The play dips into the lives of three adolescents, collectively known as The Cannibal Kids. Iman Isaacs, Indalo Stofile and Richard September use story-telling, narration and movement to portray the experiences and emotions of these adolescents. In doing so they succeed in bringing a greater depth of understanding than a mere statistic ever could.
A play about youth can often come across as light and playful, portraying experiences in a euphemistic way. Nat is far from that. The small cast and minimal staging allow the audience to focus solely on the actors and the raw emotions they portray with their words and their bodies. First person narration is key to this success. As the actors speak to the audience and to one another the experiences are relayed from their point of view whether they speak of their past or present situation. Experiences are presented in all their harshness with ‘no frills, no fuss’, just basic, raw human emotions.
The play is more a sampling of life than a story, flowing from one situation to the next without the usual beginning, middle climax and neat ending. Everyday situations see the youths grapple with love and loss, and constantly brush with danger – danger, it is implied, that might have been avoided had a guiding parent figure been present in their lives. At times Nat is even difficult to watch, challenging its viewers to observe from their seats the raw fear of a child, yet the narration and movement is so captivating it is difficult to look away.
Mainly in Afrikaans, but dotted with English, isiXhosa and isiZulu, the language of the play requires proficient Afrikaans to catch every nuance, but nonetheless Nat is a very physical play: the body language speaks loudest of all. Dotted with a few comedic moments to break the intensity, this is an hour filled with deep human emotion and inspiration.
Nat runs at the Rosebank Theatre until 31 January 2015.