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Review: Nothing But The Truth


By Belinda Otas


Rating: 4 Stars


Sipho Makhaya’s (John Kani) dream is, to one day, become his city's chief librarian. However, the arrival of the urn containing the ashes of his brother, Tenbo, long-exiled in England, unearths family secrets that have long been buried.


Set in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Nothing But The Truth is an in-depth and subtle examination of family, sibling rivalry, truth, justice, forgiveness, reconciliation and the compassion of the human soul when it has been wronged. It mirrors how Sipho struggles to come to terms with the injustice he believes he has suffered at the hands of others; the loss of his wife, the death of his son and being passed over for a job.


In the scene leading up to the secrets and lies of the family, Sipho reiterates the words “the taking never stops”, showing his hurt and bruised heart. For the sake of his daughter, he has let sleeping dogs lie until this moment when he decides to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Emotionally charged with the pain he and his daughter, Thando have carried for years but never talked about until the arrival of Mandisa Mackay, his late brother’s daughter.


There is good humour here:  The play also shows the weaknesses in a man that has been pushed too far but who decides to fight back when he gets the courage to change his situation. Sipho’s family represent the new South Africa, and as they come to terms with their issues as a family, giving the audience the opportunity to see how society deals with the ills and atrocities its own people have committed against one another.


Written by the internationally-renowned John Kani, who is arguably South Africa's greatest living actor, his astounding performance gives resonance to his other works in Sizwe Banzi Is Dead and the critically acclaimed The Island.


His co-stars, Motshabi Tyele in the role of Sipho’s daughter (Thando Makhaya) is a playwright and an award winning actress in South Africa. Rosie Motene, Sipho’s niece (Mandisa Mackay) whose other works include Hotel Rwanda and The Other Woman both bring an emotional balance to Sipho’s life which he lost years ago.


Janice Honeyman directs a flawless piece which reflects both her and Kani’s understanding of The Truth and Reconciliation Committee in the process of rebuilding a country torn apart by the actions of its own citizens.


Nothing But The Truth is truly a thought-provoking performance of humanity, compassion, justice and freedom. At the same time symbolic of the reconciliation between the old and the new South Africa. It reminds the audience about the personal loss of individuals during the apartheid era.


A tug of emotions run through as you sit back and want to hear more from the characters because you get the feeling that there is more to come. Though the play could have done with a few more characters to tell us about other families; Nothing But The truth is a delight to watch.


Nothing But the Truth has played in some of the world’s
most prestigious venues including The Baxter Theatre Centre (Cape Town), The Market Theatre (Johannesburg) The Lincoln Centre (New York) The Mark Taper Forum (Los Angeles) and The Sydney Opera House.


Nothing But The Truth is now showing at the Hampstead Theatre from 1-24 February and after that embarks on a UK National Tour.


For more information visit: www.hampsteadtheatre.com

Tel: 0207 722 9301


Belinda Otas is a London-based freelance journalist.


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