The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane ran Jan 16- Feb 8, 2015 at Interact Theatre Company
By Kai Burton
Student Playwright at Science Leadership Academy
This is the second time I have had the opportunity to write a play with the help of Philly Young Playwrights, and I find myself running into the same problem. The challenge that I face is that I keep adding in characters that represent small roles in my story, and that I don’t really need. After seeing The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane I got a better idea of how to portray the roles of my smaller characters without putting physical bodies on stage. “The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane” was a deep story about a topic that, unfortunately, still impacts a lot of people today, corrective rape. The setting of the play was mostly in South Africa during the World Cup, meaning that there would be a lot of people around, a lot of noise, and a lot of celebration. Silverman was able to get all that across, using only six actors, which I thought to be the most amazing part of the play. Some of the most important people in the play we never seen, but shown through letters and phone calls.
Another interesting choice that Silverman made was to have two people on stage at the same time, one person in South Africa, and the other in London. In addition there were also two different characters in two different time periods on stage at the same time. And they interacted with one another as if they both existed on the same plane. This interaction added another level to the play that will help me make better decisions about the setting in my own play.The question that I am now left with is the importance of setting.
The use of technology in this play helped to establish a time period for people who may not know much about the World cup, and made it more relate-able. Many other playwrights would have gone about this the old fashioned way, a telephone. But this playwright chose to use skype, which showed the importance of facial expressions and communication between characters in that particular scene. Had the characters just used a phone there would have been things or social markers that would have gone right over their heads, simply by using their tone of voice.
It was very brave of the playwright to want to use actual accents for the characters. I think that some people may have seen that as a the playwright mocking South African’s or English people. But when you do it the right way, like by using a dialect coach, you can improve your play for the better. What the playwright ended up doing was adding a new level of depth to a great play. Without the accents it may have taken the audience a long time to identify the origin of the play, and it’s characters. This play definitely gave me a lot to think about, and I would like to thank the people at Young Playwrights Philadelphia for all the opportunities they have given