Gail Louw’s extraordinarily topical new play presents former (2009-2018) South African president Jacob Zuma (Andrew Francis) and white freedom fighter Ronnie Kasrils (Jack Klaff) as old men. I saw it in the week that it was announced that Zuma will face sixteen charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering and the real Kasrils was in the audience.

In the play they are each waiting for minor treatment in a hospital cared for by Nurse Thandi (Bu Kunene who also plays other roles as the two men reflect on the past). It’s tight, edgy, powerful and sharply intelligent.  

Francis has Zuma perfectly. He has the mannerisms and the voice perfectly along with the capricious mood changes and bombast. He wheedles, boasts, cajoles, mocks, roars and makes grandiose, outlandish claims. It’s a well judged performance.

Klaff is a splendid foil too. The two men have known each other for a very long time and have a lot of shared baggage. Klaff listens intently before delivering his barbs as the two men prowl round each other, ricocheting between pretended good humoured comradery over a game of chess and venomous disagreement. 

Kunene meanwhile represents the new post-apartheid generation. “We have problems that we feel we carry on our own back because old men and old women in power don’t understand our problems” she says with impressive, quiet assertiveness at the end of the play. She has a nice portfolio of accents too.

The Ice Cream Boys is really a lament for the idealism and determination which drove the anti-Apartheid movement for so long before corruption set in. “You diverted millions, billions that should have gone to improving the living conditions of the …” he tells Zuma before he is interrupted.  

Review by Susan Elkin

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