Ubu and the Truth Commission is a South African play by Jane Taylor first performed under the directorship of William Kentridge at The Laboratory in Johannesburg’s Market Theatre on 26 May 1997. What has engaged me as I have followed the Commission, is the way in which individual narratives come to stand for the larger national narrative. The stories of personal grief, loss, triumph and violation now stand as an account of South Africa’s recent past. This marks a significant shift, because in the past decades of woza albert full play pdf resistance, personal suffering was eclipsed — subordinated to a larger project of mass liberation.
Now, however, we hear in individual testimony the very private patterns of language and thought that structure memory and mourning. Ubu and the Truth Commission uses these circumstances as a starting point.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 1996 with what Taylor described as a “momentous mandate”, to solicit testimony from those who considered themselves casualties, perpetrators or survivors of the apartheid atrocity. The Commission itself is theatre,” wrote William Kentridge, “or at any rate a kind of ur-theatre .
One by one witnesses come and have their half hour to tell their story, pause, weep, be comforted by professional comforters who sit at the table with them. The stories are harrowing, spellbinding. The audience sit at the edge of their seats listening to every word. This is exemplary civic theatre, a public hearing of private griefs which are absorbed into the body politic as a part of a deeper understanding of how the society arrived at its present position.
In truth, however, he is an agent of a governmental death squad, and the odour that she smells is of blood and dynamite. With the abolishment of apartheid, the TRC is set in motion. Amnesty is offered those war criminals who come forward and offer full and truthful testimony regarding their infractions.