NU Theatrics ‘The Wasp’ is thrillingly unhinged

Photos: Martha Mukaiwa

Chief among the praises regarding NU Theatrics’ terrific take on Morgan Lloyd Malcom’s ‘The Wasp’ is its returning patrons to the theatre.

As a crowd gathers at the National Theatre of Namibia’s Backstage on a temperate Friday night, the feeling of excitement amid the theatre-starved audience is palpable and NU Theatrics’ Ndayola Ulenga and Gloria Del Mar Ndilula have fashioned a feast.

To start, we’re introduced to Hilaria (Ulenga) and Pewa (Ndilula), two former school friends reuniting at a coffee shop after 15 years. Amid the simple yet effective staging of a café chair and table below a posh dropdown storefront, Ulenga and Ndilula convincingly inhabit two diametrically opposed characters.

Hilaria is stylish, successful and married, while Pewa’s love life is fraught, she’s about to give birth to her fifth child and is puffing away on a cigarette as her raw and unapologetic demeanour irks her somewhat holier-than-thou companion.

In a play that is driven by barbed dialogue, harrowing monologues and tense moments of things left unsaid, Ulenga and Ndilula are tasked with doing some heavy emotional lifting.

Fortunately, the two have the requisite chemistry and are up for the challenge as they engrossingly retool British Malcolm’s investigation of class, female friendship, childhood trauma, infertility, infidelity, self-perpetuating cycles of hurt and violence, as well as the depth of psychological scars for a Namibian audience.

As the play shifts from bristly then startling coffee shop reunion to the elegant interior of Hilaria’s house, a glossy backdrop for the darkest of deeds, both actresses are superb.

Swiveling from ‘Desperate Housewives’ ‘Bree van de Kamp to the wounded little girl during flashbacks to the bullying of her childhood, Ulenga plays deranged with poignancy and casually murderous intent.

As the cynical and emotionally impenetrable Pewa, Ndilula, a natural, is darkly comedic, effortlessly cool then suitably panicked as her juvenile brutality catches up with her.

Though neither character is objectively likeable and their moral deficiencies are rooted in the abusive trauma of their respective pasts, an interesting element of the play is how one finds themselves shifting their allegiances and empathy for these two manipulative, broken, former best friends.

The effect is unsettling as one grapples to seek satisfaction, justice or something like it in a two-hander I overhear a shell-shocked audience member describe as having “more twists than my dreadlocks”.

Solidly directed by Ulenga with Ndinomholo Ndilula as dramaturg and boasting serviceable, mood-shifting staging by Zindri Swartz, ‘The Wasp’ is a thrillingly unhinged and thoroughly compelling debut from NU Theatrics.

Premiering to a standing ovation as they effectively made a case for the immediacy, intensity and necessity of a good, old night at the theatre, NU Theatrics is a company to watch while anticipating the delight of their first original.

–; Martha Mukaiwa on Twitter and Instagram;

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