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Review: Catharsis and Reflection in HE HAD IT COMING

Review: Catharsis and Reflection in HE HAD IT COMING

Now showing at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until 10 December.

"It's hard to be positive. But you have to be." I close my eyes when Kim Blanché Adonis utters these words during the opening night of HE HAD IT COMING at the Baxter. It's from a monologue about a female South African soccer player who was attacked and raped after returning to her home from a victorious overseas match. Mike van Graan often draws from reality to craft cutting satire in his writing, and this particular monologue was likely inspired by Eudy Simelane. However, while Adonis' character survives the assault to tell the story, Simelane did not.

In hindsight, I don't know if I recall the line from the monologue correctly, but the monologue hit a nerve, and it represents the reflection the production left me with. It's been a grim (or ... dark) few years for South Africans, and HE HAD IT COMING's collection of monologues, poetry, and songs offers the opportunity to laugh and enjoy a delicious catharsis. Under Daniel Mpilo Richards' skilled direction, the production presents these short sketches with effective and economic delivery - both in terms of staging and humour.

The stripped staging makes Adonis the show's focal point. Decked out in all black and using only a singular stepping block to support her performance, she carries the challenging responsibility of guiding the audience throughout the various sketches. The production draws you to humorous highs, with the audience relishing the comedy on the evening I viewed. But those highs are then successfully juxtaposed with crushing lows. Although the effective lighting and clever blocking assists in this journey, it is Adonis' performance on which it all relies. Adonis powers through the different characters and monologues, displaying plasticity and virtuoso as a performer.

South Africans' humour is often toted as the balm with which we soothe our strife, and hearing the audience laugh and laughing with them during HE HAD IT COMING was wonderful. But the production also poses: What happens when the laughter stops? What are we left with?

Although Adonis retains an excellent rhythm throughout the show, I sometimes wished the audience could revel more in the moments of laughter and upsetting silence. This duality affords us to humanise and internalise the complex issues the production deals with.

The show still feels fresh despite debuting in 2019, after which its planned tour was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. I often hear people saying that South Africans are tired of talking about our country's many issues and regular turmoil. I don't think that's true. After watching this production and witnessing its engaged audience, it's clear: we still care. We still have hope. And I'm glad we can still laugh. It's hard to stay positive. But we have to be.

Photo credit: supplied

HE HAD IT COMING is on at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until 10 December. Tickets are R120 and are available online on Webtickets at or at any Pick n Pay store.

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