Rainbow Scars, Theatre Review. Unity Theatre, Liverpool.

Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10

Cast: Jennifer Steyn, Kertrice Maitisa, Mbulelo Grootboom.

The flowering of democracy leaves many a root of the past upturned and exposed to the sunlight, it catches the rays like a magnifying glass and in its wake can have the same effect on the tips of the root and the soft underbelly of the flower harmed by the burnt offering that new social equality can bring.

For South Africa, a country that for many generations suffered the atrocity of the Apartheid system, and its people, the evils of Apartheid are ones in which old wounds are still resurfacing, the overthrowing of a system does make the image, the physical scars go away in a single generation and resentment can still, in many cases quite rightly, cause the beautiful flower to curl up, wither and die. As part o the splendid Afro Vibes Festival, one of South Africa’s leading playwrights, Mike van Graan shows those open wounds in the brutal, insightful, fierce and wildly beautiful Rainbow Scars.

Presented by Artscape Theatre Centre, Rainbow Scars looks into the various relationships that a multi-ethnic society has, the division it tries to solve and correct and the fracturing of a family when the past never quite wants to let go. In parts the humour is acerbic, caustic but laced with real and bountiful laughter, at others the terrifying reminder of a system designed to cause suffering and hatred, the twin aspects of life in comedy and tragedy played out for a world to see in the confines of one country.

With three excellent performances by the actors, Jennifer Steyn, Kertrice Maitisa and Mbulelo Grootboom, Rainbow Scars really drove the point home that a nation divided, a nation that allows one set of people to be treated as lower than others, whether because of skin colour, race, sexual orientation, gender, religious practices or age is one that cannot be allowed to exist but that those division take longer to heal and rectify than one generation’s removal to the agony inflicted.

Mbulelo Grootboom was exceptional in his portrayal as Sicelo Mabundla, the young black South African whose life had been further tarnished by a jail sentence and the suspicion of the unfairness laboured out towards him in respect to his cousin. It is the type of performance that in Apartheid days would have hailed on the world stage for its intensity and torment and yet back in his native country would have had him under the kind of scrutiny that could have led to difficulties, a performance of immense stature.

Rainbow Scars is a play in which not just to sit down and be entertained by for a couple of hours, it is to witness a new history being played out in front of you. Brutally exceptional!

Ian D. Hall