By Leah Solomon
We agreed to meet on his old turf. The day was grey, wet and the sharp wind nipped at my ankles as I walked onto his territory. Sandi Dlangalala sat at a picnic table under the protruding roof of the Drama Department, cosy in a maroon grandpa jersey, faded navy blue jeans rolled up, making his tawny combat boots more noticeable. He slouched but his broad shoulders were not hidden. His long legs stretched out from under the table, emphasising his line. Even when Sandi is in his most relaxed state, he cannot hide that he is a dancer.
Sandi is a former Rhodes Drama student and is about to embark on an experience that could catapult him into the centre-stage of the South African theatre. He has returned to his old stomping, leaping, rehearsing ground to work on his physical theatre piece, Douche, which he is taking to the Cape Town Fringe Festival. The work was originally his Honours choreography piece, but he has decided to revitalise it for the festival after receiving positive feedback from both audiences and his lecturers.
Douche aims to challenge, push boundaries and make a statement that is often hidden from the public eye.
But what constitutes a Douche? This is a question Sandi asked himself, and his cast, throughout the creative process. He observed the behaviours of young men on the Rhodes campus and elsewhere, frequently discussed douche-ness and masculinity with his cast, and came to this: there is not one kind of douche but many.
“Douche is basically a challenge to masculinity and what it means to be a man,” said Sandi. “I was initially going to call it ‘Sleezeball’ and make it about sleezy, sexist, misogynistic men, but it just didn’t feel right. So I decided to scrap it and start over.”
Thank God he did. What Sandi has put together is a moving, real, powerful piece that questions the issues of masculinity: the pressure men face to behave and navigate their lives in a certain way. He also highlights the emphasis that is placed on men to never show raw emotion or any form of weakness.
“Showing such vulnerability was incredibly challenging for all of us; to show that men are also very vulnerable creatures. We didn’t want to turn it into a piece of satire either. We wanted it to show how men act and why they act the way they do,” he explained. “We want to express that it’s okay to show vulnerability, and to get to that point we had to strip ourselves of our masculinity masks.”
Sometimes words can be overwhelming, especially when used to address such a poignant issue like masculinity. Sandi has managed to address masculinity, how men perceive it and how they experience it, in an eloquent and stirring way through the “vocabulary of his choreography”.
If you’re in Cape Town, make sure not to miss Douche at the Cape Town Fringe Festival from 24-27 September.