Green Man Flashing by Murray Walker
The news headlines have been pretty ridiculous of late. We've been presented with political showboating at its absolute juiciest. News journalists and stand-up comics have never had it this good and that's saying something. So it was quite sobering to watch the new production of Mike van Graan's ‘Green Man Flashing', a play that poses questions about our fundamental rights, about right and wrong and fighting truth with truth.
After hearing van Graan speak about Green Man Flashing during a session of the Franschhoek Literary Festival I was interested to see the production. Pleasingly, I didn’t have to wait long. On now at the Artscape Arena and directed by Hennie van Greunen, it’s a play that brings very real ethical questions into stark contrast via an intimate, passionate and powerful story.
Told in mostly fleeting scenes, each revealing a little more about why a man is shot dead in a lounge. It’s not a whodunit, don’t worry about that but it’s sure as thrilling as one. It begins at the end, in court with Aaron Matshoba (Wiseman Sithole) on the stand, being questioned by attorney Anna Richards (Susan Danford). He’s testifying in a case where his ex-wife, Gabby Anderson (Anthea Thompson) is being accused of murder – the guy in the lounge.
At 85 minutes (without interval), it’s quite a long play but the story sweeps you long briskly. The opening scenes are schizophrenic and confusing but any puzzled stares are gradually ironed out as more background is coloured in. The acting is superb all-round. The story asks for the cast to travel through anger, fear, confusion, empathy, love, hate and many other emotions. At times, all at once. Seriously. This play is intense.
Few stories intrigue me more than those that leave me confused as to whose side I was on. There is almost always a clear line between the good and the bad, the villain and the hero, but every now and then it’s not quite clear. Like Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’, you can empathise with the bad guy a little easier than you can the victim. To the point where one is actually made to wonder who the real victim is. Perhaps my soul is darker than I’d like to admit but this is truly the case. Van Graan puts forth arguments about, in simple terms, the greater good versus the rights of the individual. I don’t want to give any more than that away.
You may think it is a theme that’s not all that unique, and you’d be right. However, this story puts the question (and many others) in the context of ANC politics before the elections. And that makes it utterly absorbing. Green Man Flashing also shows us that politics has a direct effect on our personal lives, that politics is intricate, full of light and shadow, full of questions.
You wouldn’t have said so judging from the past few weeks.
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