An Electric and Flamboyant Jolt of Rock and Raunch!
by David Simmons
Gate69 together with VRT theatrical theatre have once again unravelled this very bold and gutsy story on stage and this time around it is here in Johannesburg. Introducing complex characters to an audience can be a daunting task especially when the themes presented are strong, expressive and at times brutal. However, it is incredibly refreshing to observe and recognise an important piece of work, especially a production of this calibre.
Hedwig and The Angry Inch catapults on stage with its Joburg debut, bringing a dark and frightening past to life with an eccentric character, whose voice needs all the attention it can get. After it’s very successful Cape Town run, this edgy Rock Musical couldn’t have come at a more explosive time. Around the world and most importantly in South Africa, we see prominent and provoking issues continually brought to the forefront. Issues such as freedom of speech, bravery, understanding, and most importantly acceptance, become part of our daily lives. These contributing factors play their part in expressing one’s individuality and voice in times of adversity and struggle. However, our story, beautifully executed onstage, brings to life a time where one’s voice was a mere obscurity, and freedom of speech was nowhere to be seen.
Hedwig and The Angry Inch is probably one of the most commanding, yet sensitive pieces of theatre you will witness on stage. The discovery of this daringly twitchy and flamboyant musical, has a meaningful and expressive soul, highlighting prominent and notable issues that will command an audience’s full attention, now, more than ever. The sensitivity and vulnerability of the show is brought to life by two anomalous and somewhat aberrant individuals. Alongside her husband Yitzhak, Hedwig, a transgendered rock singer, who is still scarred by the extremities of her botched sex change, brings to life the story of an unconventional personality in a conformist and oppressive society.
Set in East Germany, and later on in Kansas, we journey with Hedwig where she intimately divulges her life in monologue and song. We commiserate with her past hardships where she divulges stories of her mother, her father and her lovers along the way. Hers is a raw and graphic depiction of someone trying to grapple with life’s complexities in a world where being different had its consequences.
Paul Du Toit’s performance as Hedwig is something quite remarkable to behold. His channelling of this vulnerable singer, in costume and more importantly in his character realisation, is utterly believable. The attributes around Hedwig’s character is filled with the pain of past disappointments and even more so the hurt of her present existence. She pulls you into a spiralling world of her own destruction and then spits you out with equal amounts of anger and hate. This allows audience members to experience the suffering and neglect she embodies.
Genna Galloway is a truly magnificent force as Hedwig’s suffering husband. I was mesmerised with her mannerisms and facial twitches, some so convincing that you forget that you are witnessing a woman playing the identity-driven role of a man. Both Galloway and Du Toit’s responsibilities are less performance and more real life, as there will be people who resonate with both their unravelling stories.
The set is simple yet effective. At Centre stage, representing a life of pain and suffering, we are given access into a squalid caravan, strewn with 1970’s memorabilia, wigs, bras and resentment. We, as an audience, become the voyeur and bear witness to a life in shambles. With brilliant music and lyrics by Steven Trask the live Rock Band is led by Musical Director Wessel Odendaal. The music is loud and garish and you won’t forget the manic strobe lightening anytime soon. Musical numbers such as Tear Me Down and Sugar Daddy, promise to provide ample amounts of rock from a bygone era.
With a slick and stylish direction, Elizma Badenhorst produces an energetic force that at times is hard to stomach. It’s fair to say that this musical has an extravagant voice that will resonate with many people; young, old and those still discovering who they are. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, although dark, funny and harrowing, has the right amount of sentiment that will certainly give each and every theatre goer something to talk about for some time to come.
Hedwig and The Angry Inch will be running at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre until 1st April 2018. It is important to note that his production carries an age restriction of PG16, and runs for a continuous 90 minutes.