White Men With Weapons
Greig Coetzee @ Union Hall
7:50pm, Sat 11 Mar 2006
Set around the time that apartheid was abolished in South Africa, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, White Men With Weapons is Greig Coetzee’s one-man-show that manages to cover just about every character in the South African army.
After a profane start – Coetzee’s new recruit roaming the stage, swearing constantly to himself about all the trivialities the army expects of him, berating the impractical uniforms (“when in doubt, add another piece of string”), he launches into a plethora of stereotypes – the suicidal soldier. The shouting perfunctory saluting lessons. The violent, racist rapist who doesn’t understand the evil he’s perpetuating. The isolated gay soldier. The racist corporal, whose life has been spent following orders, now being told that the enemy is now a friend. The staff-sergeant, life ruined by the army, drinking away the pain, memories of Justice the Tracker, memories of the Old South Africa – “just droughts and kaffirs”.
To be sure, some characters are off the mark – the chaplain was a bit flat, and the accents of some of the characters rendered them nearly incomprehensible. But the net effect is an overview of the army at this tumultuous time in South African history.
Despite this being yet another one-man, multi-character play in this year’s Fringe, this really was a standout. All the more special, really, that this was the 10th anniversary of the first performance of the show… and Coetzee’s birthday. Hurrah!