By Chelsea Haith
TRIGGER WARNING, CONTENT WARNING
Do not attend Welcome to the Zoo if you are likely to be triggered by graphic displays of sexual, physical and verbal abuse.
This is less a piece of theatre and more of an exhibition of rape culture. It is graphic, violent, painful to watch and intensely, perhaps necessarily, obvious in its project of education.
This is one for the buggers, for every man that has grabbed my ass in Friars, or pushed in front of me in a queue, or told me to keep quiet because I am “just a woman”. This is for the guy that has sexted and sent unsolicited dick pics to me and most of my female friends (you know who you are). This is for those who perpetuate power structures and judicial systems that silence the truth about the rape of men. It is for every person who has ever slut-shamed a woman, and for every community that turned a blind eye.
The audience enters via the stage and are welcomed to the ‘Zoo’, a thinly veiled satirical reference to our society. Functioning as visitors the audiences goes on the tour of the zoo with the cast, an implication of our complicity. The audience’s slacktivism and processes of desensitization are thrown back in their faces.
Immediately confronted by a cacophony of voices representing the media and patriarchal discourses, the audience encounters the human exhibits, including but not limited to, ‘The Home’ and ‘The Anene Booysen Exhibition’. The cast take a ‘harassment selfie’, like teenagers at the zoo posing with the camels. There is nothing subtle about this show.
The final movement of the piece when the visitors leave the zoo is the most harrowing. “It [the zoo] becomes a desensitized environment, but when they leave the zoo they find that it’s all around them and that they haven’t left,” explained director Jake Nathane. The conclusion left me crying, shaking and ill.
With limited props the cast use their bodies to good effect, changing characters with ease. Several times characters’ voices are quite literally drowned by the bodies of others. The dialogue is so true to life that it could have been taken straight from the mouths of the men and women we brush shoulders with everyday.
“We talk about it, rape culture, but we show it too. We put our all into this because it is people’s real stories that we are telling here,” said cast member Winnie Moni.
The cast is fighting against ineffectual responses to rape and rape culture, hoping to make the audience “react properly” to the violence of discourses that silence the lived experiences of victims and survivors Moni explained.
“When something happens to you, then it becomes real. We want the audience to ask themselves why this is happening and what they can do about it,” Nathane said. In solidarity with the Silent Protest, which will take place on Friday 7 August, the cast of Welcome to the Zoo make no bones about the reality of the epidemic of rape in South Africa and the insidiousness of rape culture.
Cast:Kirsten Segeren, Stuart Young, Gabrielle Georgeson, Winnie Moni, Tshekiso Kepadisa, Justine Pickering, Emily Haldane and Sibusiso Kinat
Venue: Rhodes Drama Department Box Theatre
Dates: 3, 4 and 5 August
Images supplied by Liam van Rooyen