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When home affairs and a midlife crisis collide, it’s a drama



The frustration of trying to get something sorted out at the department of home affairs embodies the stress that South Africans live with. Actor Lawrence Joffe will be performing in Home Affairs at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton. The SA Jewish Report spoke to him in the run up to the show.

How would you describe yourself?

A 56-year-old Jewish man who was too busy to take the time off to have a midlife crisis.

What inspired Home Affairs?

The initial idea was proposed by Neil Urmson, to create a show dealing with having a midlife crisis in a South African context. It’s impossible to create anything South African without taking into account the political context of the country, and of course, nothing symbolises the state of the nation better than the department of home affairs. There’s also the obvious dual meaning of the words “home affairs”. In fact, it would be fair to say that South Africa is going through its very own midlife crisis, and so, the concept plays out on both a personal and a state-of-the-nation level.

Some would say our home affairs department and load shedding aren’t funny. How do you get people to laugh at them?

Luckily, South Africans default to humour whenever they are faced with adversity. We’ve all been through government departments, and recognise the inefficiency and often the sheer ridiculousness of the system. In hindsight, those situations become funny and hopefully, the audience will recognise them.

How do you perceive home affairs and load shedding?

Home affairs is hell on earth, and load shedding its evil little minion.

Describe your character.

I play the role of Michael Goldsmith, a 56-year-old Jewish man who has hit the ceiling in both his marriage and his career, and to counter a sense of hopelessness, believes immigration will provide a new life and opportunities.

How would you describe the relationship between you and the character played by Sello Ramolahloane?

It’s a relationship that begins with politeness and a certain camaraderie, the shared experience of having to deal with the system, which evolves, not into a black-white situation, but an us-versus-them situation.

Your partner, Michelle Douglas, wrote and directed the play. What did she base it on?

It’s based on her recent interaction with the home affairs department and the political and economic situation the country finds itself in. The play reflects the mood of citizens across the country.

What was it like being directed by your life partner?

Having watched her direct other productions through the years but never having been directed by her, it was a joy to see her process. She’s a thorough, tough director who takes no prisoners but supports the actors throughout. I received no special treatment from her. Honest!

What are the main themes of the play?

Hope, with sub themes of immigration, load shedding, helplessness, as well as our common humanity.

What’s your sense of where our country is at right now?

We’re in a bad place, but the potential to recover is ever present.

What do you believe needs to happen to put our country, including government departments, back on track?

Efficient, competent administrators with the good of the country uppermost in their minds need to be voted into government. Corruption needs to be put on the same level as treason, and harsh sentencing needs to be meted out to those found guilty. We still have the potential to be the finest country in the world.

What do you want the audience to take home from this play?

I would like the audience, the silent majority, to leave feeling that they have been heard, that their fears and concerns are the same as the majority of people in the country, and that there’s still the possibility of hope.

  • Lawrence Joffe and Sello Ramolahloane will be performing “Home Affairs”, directed by Michelle Douglas, at the Theatre on the Square in Sandton from 21 February to 11 March.

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