These sayings epitomize the edutainment play Money for Shoes, written and performed by South African actresses Ayanda Khala and Refiloe Lepere who both graduated from the Wits School of Drama.
The production is a series of stories of everyday modern young women’s affections with men, shoes and luxury. The writers also play with the talk show setting, with Stella, the Nigerian talk show host, played by Juanita Azanai, engaging the audience in dialogue; occasionally throwing questions at the actresses in character a la Jerry Springer and vintage Oprah Winfrey.
Money for Shoes intends to give a voice to the previously voiceless audience; we are promptly informed. “A speaking audience, is a speaking nation and a speaking nation is a healing nation,” Stella says in her far-fetched pseudo Nigerian accent.
With the predominantly female audience at Maitisong immediately coming out of their shell on Friday, the play does achieve its initial goal. In two occasions, the play takes on a ‘choose your own adventure-esque’ turn when audiences choose alternative endings. It is likely that the actresses have exhausted all possibilities in answering questions and alternative endings, or share the quick wit for improvisation.
In one scene, while preparing for her matriculation dance, Dineo is ordered by her appearance-keeping mother to cancel her date with Tsakani who is Kalanga. After a suggestion from an audience member that Dineo stand her ground, the scene ends with same result.
The play is well written; the characters, including the invisible ones, are well-defined, complete with foibles. Khala and Lepere present characters of modern young women from all walks of life. Dineo and Thando, the main characters, are the stiletto wearing career girls. There is a defilement story with two school girls with scruffy trainers and another domestic abuse story between two loud high five sharing, flat pump wearing sisters.
Whilst their mention of tribalism in Botswana’s context was commendable they could have gone a step further by using a real Kalanga name, instead of Tsakani. Botswana does not have an Affirmative Action Act, as applied in South Africa. While it was interesting to talk about, the time spent on it was unwarranted.
If, like me, your edutainment has been a throw back of drama clubs back in high school, where the rambunctious actors would freeze during the sketch’s climax, with poses and hilariously contorted facial expressions often unrelated to what they were previously doing, this form of edutainment is more effective in maintaining the audiences attention through interaction, and is not preachy.