Human pieces scattered across the stage

Calvin Ratladi and Mimi Mamabolo perform in Human Pieces II, directed by Mariska Denysschen. Photo: Megs Kelly/Cue

Human Pieces II is a surrealist production directed and written by Mariska Denysschen and stars Mimi Mamabolo and Calvin Ratladi as two siblings locked in a room, with time running out as the conflicting goals of our characters threatening to end both of them.

After the show had ended, I spent some time trying to determine what sort of commentary this production was trying to make. There were some instances of topicality with famous South African politicians being referred to, and issues of abandonment, pregnancy and incest seeming to be the central themes. But at the same time, these themes were presented in a scenario and setting straight out of a horror film. The confined space and the alien sounds which bombard the audience add to a growing sense of dread. This can only end badly. It eventually dawned on me that the show was a subjective piece, not needing to push any strong messages, but to entertain and present the artistic endeavour.

‘Entertain’ is a loose word, however, because Human Pieces II is not for the faint of heart. It is a dark and suspenseful ride with two people that you cannot place, in terms of dominance or who is even in the right. You have a sister, a tortured girl who refuses to leave this small room, despite the threat of imminent destruction and determined to make sure her brother never leaves her again, meanwhile something is getting ready to burst out of her insides. You have the brother who can think of just two things: Himself, and the woman beyond these four walls that awaits him. And that woman is one of the very few things that you know of the world beyond those walls.

Communication and insight is limited to a broken walky-talky belonging to the brother, and the dialogue of our two characters. The narrative is at times cut by dance intervals that come out of nowhere, which at the same time bookend the feelings of trust and distrust that are thrown back and forth by the siblings. And when it all comes to a close, you are left with watching one of the characters, having started out as one of some “sound mind”, decline into the madness of their plight. The product of both then and now, the moment when you realize the meaning behind the show’s title, and the moment when everything just starts to crumble around them.

Human Pieces II is a very good addition to the theatre of the absurd, haunting and playing with audiences who will watch its entirety with eyes wide open.

By Samuel Spiller