South African Literature after the Truth Commission: Mapping by Shane Graham (auth.)

By Shane Graham (auth.)

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In one scene, the animation on the screen coincides with Pa Ubu’s movements on stage, “decoding his own body, using the toilet-brush [Ubu’s phallic scepter] as a kind of Geiger counter” (Taylor, Ubu 57). The scene thus underscores the connections between memory (represented by the animated images) and the body, like the victims whose stories are displaced across puppet, handler, and translator. 2 UBU AND THE TRUTH COMMISSION 43 Whereas The Story I Am about to Tell attempts to circumvent the danger of producing a “horror pornography” by having the victims play themselves on stage, Ubu takes a very different tack, for it is essentially a theater of displacement.

The dialogue reads like a Harold Pinter play, full of absurd non sequiturs: Benzien recalls taking Forbes out for Kentucky Fried Chicken and romps in the park, while Forbes responds with further questions about electric shocks administered to his rectum. All of the former victims repeatedly charge Benzien with using additional torture methods such as electric shocks. Benzien either denies these allegations outright, or claims not to remember the events but “concedes yes” when asked about them.

The play’s cast, he explains, consists of three professional actors and three “real people,” by which he means the actual witnesses who gave testimony at the TRC. Other elements of the play are designed to emphasize the “realness” of the people on stage and their stories. The stage setting follows a Brechtian minimalist approach: six folding chairs represent the seats on a minivan taxi. ” The lights in the theater are never dimmed, which helps eliminate the sense of distance between the audience and the stage and disrupts the audience’s expectations of the genre.

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