Having arrived for Ga(y)Me(n)Play an hour early, I observe the cast members’ warming up, led effortlessly by the dynamic choreographer, Kamogelo Molobye, and his towering, slender frame. Captivated by the cast’s total control of their bodies as they leap around the stage, I watch as the warm-up flows seamlessly into the play itself.
Molobye, a second-year Master’s student specialising in choreography and movement research, elegantly integrates the warm up into the play’s introduction in a subversion of traditional theatre etiquette. Later, he explains, “I set up an expectation of what it is that is seen to be masculine – men working out, or a cast of people going through a vigorous workout – because that is hyper-performativity of masculinity,” he says. “And that’s what I do in the piece: I show what the stereotype has been, and then I strip the orthodox understanding about what masculinity is – and unpack that even more.”
The cast disappears behind a partition, leaving a single member onstage. The portrayal of personal intimacy and femininity precedes 45 minutes of exquisitely precise choreography, enriched by poignantly used props.
Questioning stereotypes of manhood, the piece infuses hypermasculine identities – represented by athleticism – with elements of homoeroticism. “When I went to the gym, I would observe the ways in which men would interact with themselves and with one another in the gym and changing rooms. There’s a lot of touch and appreciation for other guys’ biceps and abs,” says Molobye. “There’s also an intimate exchange in those spaces, as long as there’s a disclaimer behind that interaction.”
These interactions prompted the formulation of Gameplay, which developed further – into Ga(y)Me(n)Play. The production questions how certain actions are deemed acceptable only if performed by hypermasculine (heterosexual) men, but similar actions performed by gay men are condemned.
“It’s not acceptable when a gay person embraces another gay person, because according to manhood (wherever that’s written), it’s weak and feminine for men to show vulnerability and intimacy and care and love,” he says. “I started looking at issues of intimacy and vulnerability as performed by heteronormativity and homosexuality – how it is heteronormativity can at times engage in homoeroticism.”
“We’re all playing a game with one another, but also with social stereotypes and social norms though socialisation. So we’re all playing a game that we don’t question,” Molobye says.
“We are players who are refereed, we referee one another and we referee ourselves in a space that doesn’t consider how that refereeing came into place. We’re all blindly following rules of masculinity and manhood without critiquing and reflecting why we’re following them, simply because we are taught them from the time we were born.”
Molobye aims to question the role of theatre in its entirety. “Theatre is not just for enjoyment,” he says. “It is a discourse in and of itself, so theatre contributes toward the politics of existence and the socialisation and the socialism of existence in South Africa.”
“I want the audience to engage while watching the piece, as opposed to thinking they’re coming to watch a beautiful piece of production that is deserving of applause at the end. I’d much rather have them come and engage with what it is that they found interesting or disturbing with the piece,” he adds.
Showcasing moments of vulnerability and intimacy, the piece reconstructs ideas of masculinities, and redefines, indeed, what it is to be a man. Molobye – a black, queer, male feminist – aims to get the audience thinking, reflecting on and critiquing their thought processes.