28 July 2023 | Story Nonsindiso Qwabe | Photo Supplied
The Suit
Thabang Chakane, Boitumelo Riet, and DJ Kruger, the cast of The Suit

Tackling issues of gender-based violence through screenplay, the UFS Department of Drama and Theatre Arts, in collaboration with the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, rolled out a theatre production of The Suit – an adaption of a short story by legendary South African writer, Can Themba.

Through the adaptation of the short novel into a theatre piece, the production calls on the UFS community to challenge disruptive societal norms that have been normalised, to challenge traditional gender roles, and to foster open dialogue on issues plaguing society today.

The play kicked off its inaugural performance on the UFS Qwaqwa Campus on 25 July 2023.

Unearthing societal plagues that have maintained prevalence throughout the years

The story is set in Apartheid South Africa and revolves around the story of Philemon and Matilda, a couple deeply in love until betrayal disrupts their relationship. As a black man in Sophiatown, Philemon, a doting husband, faces insurmountable pressure to conform to societal expectations regarding manhood, marriage, and fidelity. At the same time, Matilda crumbles under the resentment of the pressures of being a wife. Philemon’s discovery of Matilda's affair leads to a series of tragic events, as toxic manifestations of jealousy and abuse of power mark Philemon's response to the betrayal. He forces Matilda to wear her lover's suit as a constant reminder of her infidelity, subjecting her to humiliation and emotional torment. The play was followed by a panel discussion aimed at helping the audience to connect the themes addressed with their day-to-day lives.

Prof Colin Chasi, Director of the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice, said the play was tied to the unit's Values Programme, which is being rolled out institutionally. “The integrated partnership shows the efficacy of student-led interventions when these are given institutional backing,” he said.

Prof Chasi said that the production challenged today's attitudes, practices, and cultures of gender-based violence. “Stage productions have great power to speak meaningfully to people. In many ways, The Suit is consistent with our decolonial values. It says our stories matter, and we can continue to elevate ourselves by recalling and reclaiming them.”

The Suit shows on the Bloemfontein Campus on 27 July and 1 August in the Albert Wessels Auditorium, and on 31 July in the Madiba Arena on the South Campus.

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