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Of Patatatsh, Tomatsh, Discountsh and Ö Padria

Renos Spanoudes

Review of Porra at the Wits Downstairs Theatre Complex
Click here for production details

The world is one hell of an interesting place. There are wide varieties of fauna and flora, shades of colour, shapes of objects and, of course, personalities, characters and attitudes. In the obsession with political correctness, acceptance and tolerance, one is thankful that there can be the celebration of uniqueness, that in the quest for fairness and equality, there exists the somewhat sobering practice of celebrating individuality while embracing collective consciousness.

The latest offering at The Wits Downstairs Theatre brings a flood of such sentiments to the fore. Awaiting the audience at Sonia Esgueira's one-person production, Porra, are the emotions, reflections and realisations experienced during movies such as Monsoon Wedding and My Big Fat Greek Wedding and plays such as Meze, Mira and Make Up, No Sugar, Canderel Please, Acropolis Cafť, Tsafendas, Hoot, A Coloured Place, Out of Bounds and The Apple Tree, to name a few.

Written and performed by a real "SA gal of Pork-And-Cheese parentage", this is a production that is clearly a labour of love, a work of passion and energy. It is further embraced by the insightful direction of an equally "nice SA gal", Ruth Levin, who, being of Jewish parentage and having travelled and worked overseas, is no stranger to ethnic issues herself. With intensity and focus, stereotypes of the "Porras" in South Africa come alive as the Cape Town-based Sonia breathes life and soul into the members of the Ferreira family. It's a show that, like an espetada, a peri-peri chicken breast, "slap" chips or a serving of pastel de nata, brings us expected and unexpected flavours.

And universal truths abound. So much so that questions like "Am I South African?" (or "Am I 'Porra'" (or Greek, Cypriot, Italian, Lebanese, German, Chinese, etc) become less important, and we start to ask "Does it matter?" In fact we confront, once again, the full dilemma of being "of here" and "not of here", sentiments expressed so well by the inimitable and unforgettable Zorba. We realise, that in what appear to be immense differences in culture, food, tradition, religion, we are not that different after all. We all feel pain, want to be accepted, wish to be comfortable, long for love - we just use different maps, with different routes and signs, as we journey. We may not be on the same page at the same time, but we're certainly on the same planet and we feel the same when we see a starving child, homeless flood survivor, helpless bomb victim, weeping mother, desperate father.

Or do we?

Sonia herself admits that when she visits Portugal she is South African "to the core".

We recognise Mom on her "guilt trip religion" and in her "Hail Marys"; her dad who, like the "Greasy Griekie" down the road, is always drinking coffee and working; the hairy "Porra chick" sister and her antics innocentia; an inebriated grandfather and his salt of the earth heart. These are all angles on the tip of the Portuguese diaspora in the South Africa iceberg.

There's much more to be said about ethnicity, but the snapshot Porra monologues (which reflect and engage with stereotypes) in this engaging production and performance are similar to those of Nia Vardalos, the fairy-tale Canadian Greek (or is it Greek Canadian?) success story. When Tom Hanks saw her one-woman show, he knew that the passionate actress, with such a labour of love, was the perfect candidate to sponsor in terms of the transition of a heartfelt, true story, from the stage to the screen. With a little encouragement from his wife Rita Wilson (herself asking questions such as "Am I Greek American or American Greek?") they helped Nia bring My Big Fat Greek Wedding to life in a form that resonated with thousands worldwide.

One didn't have to be Greek to laugh and love during the film. And so one doesn't need to be Portuguese to love, and laugh, with Porra. One only has to be human and, as such, have longed to laugh and love.

Production Details
Venue: Downstairs Theatre, Wits Theatre Complex
Season: 7 - 25 February
Performances times: Monday-Saturday 20h00
Bookings: Sonia, 082 572 7431
Ticket prices: R70 (Students and Pensioners R40)
Duration: Approximately 1 hour 5 mins.

LitNet: 24 February 2006

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boontoe / to the top

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