Kulani Nkuna
1 minute read
18 Feb 2014
6:00 am

Propaganda made real on stage

Kulani Nkuna

What took place at the Wits Theatre on the opening night of Hate Radio was not theatre.

It was not spectacle or drama, but real-lived experiences that happened and were then put on a stage in front of an audience.

It was not performance. The gruesomeness and brutality of the words and ideas were such that some in the audience left the auditorium just 20 minutes into the production.

Those who remembered that they were indeed in a theatre clapped and some gave a standing ovation at the end of the piece, but the majority remained in their seats, considering not what their eyes saw but what their ears heard.

Hate Radio is an account of the events surrounding the Rwandan Genocide of 1994. The correct official term for the play is “documentary theatre production”, a concept we are not readily familiar with in mainstream South African theatre.

The popular Rwandan radio station RLTM has gone down in history as one of the most cynical propaganda instruments ever deployed (it was used to encourage hate during the genocide).

Hate Radio reconstructs excerpts of real transmissions from throughout that time, with sports reports and the latest music hits broadcast alongside blatantly racist ideology and incitements to murder.

With the exception of harrowing eye-witness accounts given in a testimonial fashion, the entire production takes place in a radio studio booth. It is mostly performed in French and Rwandan, with subtitles projected on top of the booth. For the best part of almost two hours, the cast is talking on radio about their twisted ideology and the harm they wish would come to their “enemies”. Loud music is the only variant in the piece and the dancing by one of the anchors of the radio show offers brief yet disturbing comic relief.

Hate Radio is an extremely moving experience that lingers in the mind for days.