Play ‘illuminating a crisis’
Brett Kebble was a character who garnered much interest and attention. It’s a phenomenon how he perpetrated the biggest corporate fraud in SA’s history and his mysterious death in 2005 (in what appeared to be an assisted suicide) was big news. Since the first reports about Kebble’s ambition to be a new Barney Barnato surfaced in the press in the 19905, playwright Allan Kolski Horwitz had followed the saga and has been horrified at the ease with which Kebble hoodwinked the financial world and corrupted so many struggle stalwarts and members of the ANC Youth League. “His ability to be ‘all things to all people’ showed him to be a con-man of great ability but also showed the greed and gullibility of so many leaders in our society,” says Horwitz. With his political satire, Comrade Babble- The Life and Times of Brett Kebble, Horwitz reflects on and examines Kebble’s ambitions and tricks, his insatiable need to be loved and applauded and his terminal desperation when confronted with his empire’s collapse. The play also holds up a mirror to five characters who played key roles in either assisting him, or in bringing him to justice. Horwitz is also a poet, writer of short fiction, a singer-songwriter and a member of the Botsotso Jesters poetry performance group and a social activist. He worked in the trade union movement and allied organisations from 1986 to 2010, but now focuses more on artmaking, although social issues are at the heart of his work. He wrote C,omracle Babble over three months last year and directed a preliminary version, which was performed at the Musho Festival in Durban in January This run opening at the Market Theatre Lit8Fat61.3 n’iday is directed by Alby Michaels and stars David James and Lebohang Motaung. On how relevant the play is, Horwitz says: “It is extremely relevant in that our society is still gripped by corruption and megalomania - in the corporate and state spheres. In general our political class and the ‘captains of industry’ have shown themselves to be unworthy of the historic task of leading us beyond the legacy of apartheid. A new wave of political theatre is needed to focus on and illuminate this crisis.” With it he hopes to provoke debate, to educate, to entertain and to give audiences a jolt by portraying society’s general complexity in Kebble’s crimes. Satire is often over the top, but in Comrade Babble Horwitz tries to mix in realistic dialogue. “Another element is wit as opposed to slapstick, in that the dialogue is, I hope, quite subtle in its own right without being too intellectual. Political satire offers me the chance to combine my two great passions: a love of theatricality and word play, and a commitment to human rights and economic justice,” he says. He wants to take the play all over the country and hopes to attract working-class audiences as he feels “the issues touch directly on the ability of South Africa’s leadership to deliver a ‘better life for all’ “. Contrade Babble, the Market Theatre Laboratory (The Bus Factory President St, Newtown) from Friday to May 13. POLITICAL THEATRE: Buti Bhunga, above left, and David James star in Comrade Babble- The Life and Times of Brett Kebble, by Allan Kolski Horwitz, top.