Play chronicles boys’ school culture

Sainthood cast members, from left, are Tevin Masura, Cullum McCormack, director and writer Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni, Mphumzi Nontshinga, Simphiwe Shabalal and Adam Lennox.

After three years of working on her play, Sainthood, a Salt River freelance writer and director will see it come to life as it debuts at the Baxter Theatre this week.

The play follows five fictional matric boys at an elite private school, St Gabriel’s, which prides itself on a stellar reputation in moulding men of stature.

The school goes above and beyond to make sure the pupils have the best teachers, coaches, equipment and school pride. Anything that threatens this sanctity is rectified with immediate effect, and anyone who challenges the system is dealt with swiftly and in accordance with the traditions and rules of the school

Sainthood interrogates the all-boys-school culture and looks at issues such as race, class, bullying and the impact a school system can have on a teenager’s mental health.

UCT graduate Tiisetso Mashifane wa Noni started working on the play in 2015, while in high school.

Tiisetso, who attended St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Pretoria, was intrigued by the culture of the boys’ school, having had a glimpse of the “saints school culture”.

The 23-year-old is also a choreographer and performer with a BA in political science, philosophy and drama from Rhodes University and a BA (Honours) in directing for stage, writing for film and avant-garde film from UCT.

Tiisetso assembled an all-male cast comprising recent UCT graduates Adam Lennox, Tevin Musara, Cullum McCormack, Mphumzi Nontshinga and Simphiwe Shabalala, who plays the role of the school’s head boy, TebogoSimphiwe, of Sybrand Park, says Tebogo is aware of what is happening at the school and wants to change the system, but doesn’t know how.

Simphiwe’s favourite scene revolves around a racial altercation.

“It is in that moment where he is trying to be brave, driven by passion and his innocence,” he says.

Mphumzi, from Mowbray, plays over-achiever deputy head boy Zwelakhe, who becomes caught between trying to secure his future and helping his friends.

Mphumzi says he related to his character as he had gone through the same experiences.

“I went to a co-ed school in the Eastern Cape that was predominately white. We were racially profiled by teachers, and when we stood up to the ‘system’ we were labelled as trouble makers,” he says.

William, the captain of the first rugby team and the school’s “golden boy” is played by Ronde-bosch’s Cullum, who says this is a story that needs telling. William has been placed on a pedestal because of his rugby abilities, but he has to deal with conflicting emotions about his schooling and social life.

Cullum says the stories are all based on real-life experiences from boys over the years.

“This was a school culture I understood all too well and something that is still taking place. This is a topic we need to discuss – as the effects of this are often only realised long after the fact.”

Tevin plays Siyabonga, who finds himself in a predicament with his love interest. He is caught in a tug of war between what he wants but can’t have. He describes his character as someone who is confident, caring and well-known among his peers.

Tevin says the boys-school culture is something that needs to be looked at.

“There are pupils who deal with this on a daily basis. We are storytellers and here to share their stories, not to dictate how people should react but to get their stories out there and highlight these issues.”

Tiisetso says she was excited to see the play come to life and hopes it will lead to discussions about the “saints school culture”.

The play is on at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until Saturday February 23, at 7.30pm, with Saturday matinees at 3pm. There is an age restriction of 16 years. Ticket prices range from R50 to R100. Book at Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at www.webtickets.co.za or from selected Pick * Pay stores.

For discounted school or group block bookings, fund-raisers or charities, contact Sharon Ward at 021 680 3962 or sharon.ward@uct.ac.za or Carmen Kearns at 021 680 3993 or carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za.