Swartz’s ‘Prime Colours’ Stuns

There are stories that start off innocently enough but which you know are coming to get you.

Stories that lull you into a false sense of security and comfort you with clicheacute but which are only trying to keep you calm so you won’t walk before they’ve made you weep. Zindri Swartz’s ‘Prime Colours’ is one of these stories – minus the innocence.

Instead his play begins with a young Nello and Sonja making out under blue light in the first of the graphic scenes that will be a hallmark of a production unafraid to shove sex and sexuality in your face as you bear voyeuristic witness to the reality of modern relationships.

The first reality the play gets the audience to come to terms with is that many modern relationships are between two men.

Explicitly exploring the homosexual awakening of Nello Mali played daringly by Grant Edem and the shamelessly gay Simon brought fabulously to life by Rodelio Bonito Lewis, ‘Prime Colours’ takes the audience through each stage of adult gay life in a presentation that both shocks and shames those watching from behind their hands and in-between their fingers.

As Simon joins the dysfunctional family unit in which Risto Nghambe plays the drunken, philandering Mali patriarch and Brumelda English the Bible-toting Mali matriarch, he gets on easily enough and proves his metal when he defends Monica Mali from her inebriated husband Joseph to her gratitude.

This is soon forgotten after her darling Nello enjoys a very gay and very graphic night of passion with Simon and Monica’s thank yous mutate into hisses of “evil moffie” and “you gays are filthy and sick” spat out in her “good Christian house”.

And then it begins.

What was once a pleasant story throwing around camp lines and setting sex scenes to Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’ replete with back-up dancers as Nello and Simon simulate sex quickly becomes the harrowing gay reality as the play rushes to calls of “you make me sick” and “you faggot” before careening towards Nello’s denial, a prostitute’s attempt to screw him straight, physical and verbal abuse and Simon’s harrowing corrective rape.

There is no respite.

As part of its excellent staging, the play cuts to footage of gay people being accosted all over the world and to Simon’s own brutal fate after he is thrown out of the Mali house.

When it is all said and beautifully done through video, poetry, powerful, painful dance solos by Grant Edem and a striking turn by Whilzahn Gelderbloem who plays Sonja, the reality is a dark one in which homosexual people are still fighting for their rights in-between curling up tight and angry, asking: “Do I deserve to be burned alive when all I seek is love? I am flesh and blood just like the rest of you, why don’t you understand that?”

A startling and vital social commentary, Swartz’s play is an intrepid revelation of society’s ugliness and hypocrisy in the church-going woman who seems to deny that only God can judge, in the scorned female lover who forgets that Nello called her “window dressing” and a “diseased whore” and in its straight man whose gay slurs become a wild, desperate cry of “I love f*cking men!”

The kisses are real. The sentiments are raw and the stories are reality. In time Swartz will learn the benefits of subtlety and he will know to end his play with power rather than adding auxiliary scenes that take away from Edem’s final, heartbreaking, spectacular dance of denial and final release but for now the sheer fearlessness of his subject matter and his incredible main and supporting cast’s intrepid staging of an essential story render the play’s flaws almost invisible.

In every sense of the word, ‘Prime Colours’ was absolutely stunning.

It stunned the eyes, it stunned the mind and it stunned one’s latent homophobia while bringing a crucial conversation to the fore in a spectacular display of art as activism.

Source : The Namibian