“It takes one worm to destroy an apple” – Johnny [Tony Kgoroge] the travelling sales man.
Nongogo, written by Athol Fugard, directed by James Ngcobo – is on at the Market Theatre for a limited season. Set in the 1950s in Queenie’s Shebeen – it is a remarkable tale of love that almost was.
Queenie [Masasa Mbangeni] accepted Johnny with his not so pleasant history and a wallet full of dreams – nice way of saying he didn't have money. She opened her home (Shebeen at night), heart and supported his dreams. But when he finds out what she is a reformed hooker – he is disgusted.
What matters most; your mistakes or the person you are trying to be? We all have followed different paths to get to our current positions – some paths were not paved in good decisions – but we live. Why would someone then treat you like a leper because of your history?
It’s weird this relationship thing – as in Queenie’s case. It is evident that Blackie [Desmond Dube] loves her but because he is crippled he doesn't stand a chance. Like Sam [Fana Mokoena] says, “He looks like God had the shakes when he made him”. He adores Queenie and is quick to protect her.
Sam on the other hand probably loves Queenie but in more of an ownership type of love and not the romantic stuff that movies are made of. He was her pimp. He is comfortable with the unhappy, bitter, angry, booze selling Queenie and at the slightest sign she’s going soft, thanks to the “rag-sales man”, he get dangerously jealous.
Then there is Patrick [Hamilton Dlamini], the resident drunk who in his state says a lot of uncomfortable truths about the black condition. His wife is giving birth and he doesn't know what he will name the baby. He is distraught about the situation because a name is all he knows he will ever give his child – a sad glimpse into his reality. He drinks to forget.
Nongogo is about brokenness. A brokenness that has become so normal when Queenie tries to escape it by finding love and romance – she is reminded that she is broken, filth, not worthy of it all. Women are forgiving and accepting. Men are looking for purity in women. It doesn't matter how old you are – just make sure you have lived a clean and pure life. Well if that is the case – maybe some romances are better left alone. Maybe some people are better off alone. You can’t wipe out your history, ignore that it happened – but you can want a better life – work towards it. You might not succeed but at least you tried.
Nongogo is directed by the Market Theatre’s new artistic director James Ngcobo. “The play’s broad these is ‘Romance’ …Each actor brought a depth of emotion and understanding of the character’s complexity to the process. It makes for an extremely moving representation of the simplicity of love in a very complex era,” described Ngcobo.
The cast is brilliant, there is plenty of humour and the set is on point with the smell of a stew cooking to add to the aura of the room. The music is well picked - also sets all the moods played out. Go watch it for the great acting, amazing story and loads of laughter!
It is on until 3 November.