Jacob Zuma was the President of South Africa, but now he isn’t, and he’s in hospital unable to urinate. His old ally and adversary Ronnie Kasrils is across the hall, having a suspicious skin blemish checked out.

The Ice Cream Boys speculates on what might happen if these two old men have a conversation again: whether old scores will be settled or soothed, whether political points will be scored, whether old wounds with raw edges will be ripped open.

Bu Kunene and Andrew Francis
Bu Kunene and Andrew Francis

Zuma and Kasrils both appear confident men on the surface, trading insults and barbed observations with an indulgent smile. Both snakes, circling for the kill with a smile, except neither now has power or relevance unless to needle each other.

Andrew Francis is Zuma, Jack Klaff is Kasrils. Their portrayals are intelligent, expressive, feisty and never weak. They spar like tired old animals who have spent years walking together then pacing around seperate cages.

Andrew Francis and Jack Klaff
Andrew Francis and Jack Klaff

Old men talk of the past (and with lower lighting and the hard work of third cast member Bu Kunene, we see those shadowy figures from years previous), of health, food, sex, ambition, and the future – even if that seems uncertain. We see that despite appearances and assertions, these two have some common ground: the last good Communist and the capitalist tribesman.

In a set with black and white squares which reflect the chess game they start to play, we see the fuzzy edges of the political game, the seeds of resentment which come from both white privilege and the black African sense of entitlement.

Jack Klaff and Bu Kunene
Jack Klaff and Bu Kunene

Gail Louw”s play deftly brings the bigger picture down to two men and their nurse (“a good Zulu woman”) in a room. It’s an engrossing game of cat and mouse where the winner perhaps doesn’t matter.

The Ice Cream Boys runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until 2 November. It is directed by Vik Sivalingam. Photo credits Robert Workman.

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