In early February, it struck me that I had been in Vancouver for three years and had been blessed with the opportunities of attending myriad shows, but none of these had been from my home continent of Africa. When I had the opportunity to see the Canadian premiere of the award-winning Cadre by South African playwright Omphile Molusi, I realized the wait was worth it — I was treated to a show that was well written, soulfully performed, and wittily choreographed.
As I entered The Cultch and made my way to my seat, I noticed that there was a young African man on stage, walking around calmly. He was bouncing his head slowly up and down the theatre, looking at everyone who entered. Every now and then, he made an adjustment to the set, fixing an unsatisfactory angle of the props. This instantly made me assume that he was a perfectionist. As the show went on, I realized that his perfectionism paid off splendidly.
The performance started with a powerful monologue by Gregory, played by Omphile Molusi. He is joined by two multi-character players, Fezile Mpela and Lillian Tshabalala. The story begins in the mid 1960s and continues until the end of apartheid before bringing us back to 2015.
It was a powerful performance by the actors on a simple, almost minimalist stage. I loved how the entrances and exits were portrayed through a draped clothesline. I also appreciated the continuity of having Gregory in the same clothes through four decades while the other characters changed swiftly in and out with the help of simple costumes.
Molusi’s captivating storytelling ability carries this play forward while his talented co-stars go through many character changes and do so creatively. The play is about the struggle of life, love, and loss during apartheid. It has a wonderful comedic element that made the audience laugh childishly at its most heartwarming moments
This was Molusi’s first time in Vancouver, and I hope he comes back again soon with another production, if not the same Cadre.