No country for old men: The Ice Cream Boys @JSTheatre

America has Trump, Britain has Boris, and South Africa had Jacob Zuma. Old men fade from power and eventually die, and no skeleton is left in the closet in the Ice Cream Boys by Gail Louw. For ninety minutes, they bitch and moan about the state of their country and the path their lives have taken. It just so happens that one of the men is Jacob Zuma, former President of South Africa. The other is Ronnie Kasrils, former Minister for Intelligence Services and critic of Zuma.

It sets out in a breathtaking edge-of-your-seat way, both a historical and personal account of the struggles of the country. Full of passion and fire, it's currently playing at the Jermyn Street Theatre. The two men meet by chance in a hospital. Kasrils (Jack Klaff) is there to have a melanoma removed. Zuma (Andrew Francis) is there to have his prostate checked. They are in adjacent rooms tended to by a young nurse, Thandi, who lives in a township some distance away (Bu Kunene).

For those familiar with South Africa's history, they will be aware of the rivalries, but there is enough in the piece to bring you up to speed. And things quickly move up a level when Zuma's treatment of women (including a rape charge) and Kasril's white privilege are examined and dissected over the course the piece.  But it's left to Thandi, who grew up in the post-apartheid era, to highlight the nations new questions, that neither of these men can answer.

It's a gripping piece that is aided by the sharp and incisive performances by the cast. Designer Cecilia Trono has constructed a hospital waiting room out of black and white, but everything else on stage is shades of grey.

Directed by Vic Sivalingam, Ice Cream Boys is at Jermyn Street Theatre until 2 November.


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