facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11
Are you missing theatre as much as we are? Support us now with Theatre Tokens and see your favourite shows when they reopen. #IMissTheatre

I See You

Published 4 March 2016

What’s it all about?

On his Royal Court debut, writer Mongiwekhaya takes a step back and takes stock, pitting the shockwaves of contemporary South Africa’s past against the glowing promise of its future.

At one end of the ideology spectrum you have freedom fighter-turned-police officer Buthelezi, a wearied and troubled middle-aged man witnessing the collapse of his marriage from the sheer weight of the trauma he suffered during the apartheid epoch. At the other: young law student Ben, a middle-class liberal belonging to a generation seemingly ignorant of the grisly history his Johannesburg birthplace is inherently steeped in, be that out of innocence or choice.

So when an initially harmless clash between the two escalates, the combination of Ben’s apparent naivety and Officer Buthelezi’s violent chip-on-shoulder sparks a prejudice-laden battle of ideologies. A bold, brutally honest and bruising reflection on a country still seeking unity in its cultural identity, I See You questions how South Africans can embrace the need to move on if they are to remain under the duress of paying homage to their modern history.

The message, as you might expect, digs a little deeper than forgive and forget. 

Who’s in it?

In this instance, star billing stems from the Director’s chair, where Hermione-to-be Noma Dumezweni makes an imposing directorial debut. The multi-talented actress tackles a complex story with assertive clarity, diligently masterminding the gradual descent of Ben and Buthelezi’s initial run-in towards something far more sinister, intense and, ultimately, meaningful.

In a cast of seven Court debutants, Desmond Dube dominates as Buthelezi in a performance of skilfully measured duality. His is a wounded anti-villain so clearly shaped by his tumultuous past that, when confronted with his own personal demons, he appears as terrified and confused as his prisoner Ben. Such internal conflict is masterfully portrayed by Dube, parading the volatile officer as a pitiful but hauntingly dangerous product of his time.

What should I look out for?

The pantsula dancing scene. Events could easily slide into humorous slapstick, but tenacious performances from across the cast invoke a violent grotesqueness that is tough to watch. It’s shocking how helpless Ben is here. Despite suffering only for his ancestry’s actions, it’s uncomfortably unclear how far his suffering will go.

Not so much a feature to look out for, but keep an ear out for the rich honesty of the writing, grounded with seamless integration of Afrikaans language. Mongiwekhaya fuels familiar themes of prejudice, politics and personal identity with a delightfully subverting voice, expressing both love and anguish for his home country. It’s refreshing, authentic, penetrative and potent, but never preachy, and offers crucial food for thought from a rare but accessible perspective.

In a nutshell?

A ferociously honest prejudice drama, I See You is lovingly penned, evocatively staged and intelligently performed. A powerhouse of a play that leaves you reeling.

What’s being said on Twitter?

GET THE FULL EXPERIENCE:

To see this content you’ll need to allow us to set some additional cookies!

Update your cookie preferences here and enable ‘social and advertising cookies’

Will I like it?

Laugh-a-minute comedy it ain’t, but I See You is copiously challenging, intelligent and important. That’s not to say it treats itself too seriously – moments of comic relief punctuate the script, and provide welcome relief from the frequently agonising tension – but these never undermine the feeling that this is a piece of theatre with an emotional heart and soul borne from a place of harrowing, persistent, patriotic pain. It’s an exceptional story told from a unique perspective, and if you like your theatre intense, personal and stimulating, you’ll love it. Be sure to take a friend, or make one while you’re there; you’ll have plenty to discuss on your way home.

I See You plays at the Royal Court until 26 March. You can book tickets through the theatre’s website

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.