South African politics are a minefield. And in being so, they are the perfect fodder for comedy. Somehow, comedy doesn’t work without twists of tragedy, something South African politics is very good at, as is Mike van Graan’s brilliant script for State Fracture. It’s fast-paced, acerbic, tragic, and uproariously funny.
The set is simple: black stage, guitar on a guitar stand and one small black box which, at various times during the multiple short sketches, is part of a chicken coop. We delve into the roller coaster that is modern social media, the pulpit in Pastor Hlaudi’s church, Helen Zille’s toilet and more. Versatile is not the word.
Speaking of versatile, Daniel Mpilo Richards is phenomenal and glides smoothly through multiple characters and accents without losing character. It’s hard to pick stand out points in a play with so many well-executed lines and movements, but the activist chicken and Pastor Hlaudi’s ranting sermon were stellar. Then there was the Romeo and Juliet sketch – including a spot-on impersonation of the director of State Fracture, Rob van Vuuren – which left the audience on the floor laughing.
Mention must be made, too, of Richards’ physicality and voice. Sinewy and strong, he makes the physical theatre that is seamlessly incorporated in this piece look easy. Another nod in the direction of van Vuuren’s directorial talent. Richards’ vocals and guitar skills must’ve melted plenty of hearts and in State Fracture, his talents are used to great effect with quick-witted satirical adaptions of well-known songs.
State Fracture is a flawless blend of comedy and tragedy, highlighting the issues of South Africa today: corruption, fake news, the whirlpool of social media that threatens to drown us, privilege denialism and patriarchy, to name a few. With accurate commentary on everyday South African politics, the show is thought-provoking, totally absurd and ultimately, filled with humour.
State Fracture is on at the Baxter Studio until the 19 August 2017.