[author-post-rating] (3/5 stars)
At the centre of Cadre, Omphile Molusi’s play about growing up in a conflict-filled South Africa, running forms a central motif. Throughout his life – the play spans 50 years – Gregory tries to escape from the oppression surrounding him, but freedom always just seems out of reach. Directed by Molusi in collaboration with Rick Boynton, it’s a burning production which shows the value of love when freedom isn’t possible.
The central character (played with energy by the playwright) finds himself trapped by both the control of his parents and the world outside. Partly as a rebellion and partly down to youthful innocence, he falls in love with Sasa but is soon driven away after his brother’s death. The next 20 years are spent in a state of flux, never knowing quite what his mission should be or how he should achieve it, flitting from organisation to organisation in an attempt to destroy the regime. Frequently, when working for the government, he has to make impossible choices.
Molusi’s play is full of a vibrant poetry, and though it is a piece about a dark moment in South Africa’s history, there is plenty of heart. It demonstrates the difficulty of sticking to an ideology when faced with aggression, and how a feeling like love makes decisions even tougher. It isn’t exactly hard to see where the script is going, but then perhaps this is part of Molusi’s point: in oppressive systems, these stories keep repeating themselves.
Cadre is performed by only three actors, with Molusi taking the role of Gregory, and Sello Motloung and Lillian Tshabalala taking all the other characters. Somehow, however, through a mixture of striking music (Tshabalala) and Jesse Klug’s perpetually moving lighting design against Scott Davies’ simple, sheeted set, it feels like the staging is bustling with people, the scenes shifting into focus in the chaos of the township.
Though the central events of Cadre are ones of violence and terror, Molusi still manages to end on a tone of hope, highlighting what the people of country have achieved but reminding us there’s still a long way to go: “Soldiers die, but causes live on. The struggle continues.”
Cadre is at the Traverse until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/cadre