On 14 January 2008, 17-year-old Johan Nel killed four people during a shooting spree in Skierlik, an informal settlement just outside Ventersdorp in the North West province. Now, more than five years later, the effect of this tragic event is explored in one of the most moving plays you'll see this year.
"After I matriculated I wanted to be a theatre maker so I joined the Market Theatre Laboratory," said writer and performer Phillip Dikotla, who received the Arts and Culture Trust (ACT) Impact Award for theatre last year. "During my studies there the terrible news about the Skierlik shootings broke and I was determined to write about it and so started my journey with this play."
Forgiveness and bitterness, anger and hopelessness
Skierlik tells the story of Thomas, husband of the murdered Anna and father of toddler Elizabeth, who takes on the difficult journey of forgiveness and bitterness, anger and hopelessness, change and acceptance, when he returns to the place he was forced to leave.
The play won the Best Production award at the Baxter Theatre's Zabalaza Festival in March this year. "Many factors have positively influenced this clear winner and on so many levels too," said artistic director Thami Mbongo. "It's not only about the production value, content and execution which this production succeeds at, but also that it talks about fundamental social issues and ills."
So don't be surprised if this play moves you to tears. You certainly won't be the only one.
Skierlik is at Cape Town's Baxter Theatre until 15 June and at the Arts Festival in Grahamstown later this month. Tickets are available from Computicket and cost only R25.