First published as course work on temporary blog, Digital Rom-Com.
The Amazing Other Show has been a fixture of the Rhodes University Orientation Week schedule for nearly a decade. The show is a joint initiative run by the Rhodes Drama Department, the Higher Education HIV/Aids Programme (HEAids) and the Eastern Cape’s premier drama company Ubom! It aims to educate new students at Rhodes about a variety of issues they may encounter in their first year including racism, homophobia and anti-religious sentiment among other things. However, the show’s poster is deliberately left ambiguous and first years are not told what to expect from the show.Before one of the daily showings, we asked several new students to predict what the show was about based on its poster. Listen to their reactions here: The Amazing Other Show is made up of a series of vignettes, each of which focuses on one particular contentious issue. The vignettes are tied together by tightly scripted musical or dance numbers. With tight choreography and scripting and incredibly strong performances from the entire cast, who are clearly thoroughly enjoying themselves, The Amazing Other Show is harrowing, shrewd and – more often than not – hilarious.
“The spin on the show is that it uses laughter as a trigger but equally as a magnifying glass,” says director Hannah Lax (Solo). The humorous element of the show is what makes it easier for audiences to digest, though Lax feels that it is up to the willingness of the audience members as to how much they can learn from the show. The elements of shock and surprise have traditionally worked well in favour of the performers and this year is no different – in particular, the use of the final cast member used as a ‘plant’ to stir up conversation in the audience during the question and answer session at the close of the show. Several new skits were introduced to the show this year, which Lax feels have garnered a fair reception and have brought about a lot of conversation, adding to the general script that has been used since the inception of the show. She feels that the return of Rhodes alumni Tyson Ngubeni (Hanamichi) and the inclusion of three community actors as well as cast members in second and third year has brought about a level of inclusion that is interesting to see. “I think that the most meaningful thing that we can perhaps leave behind is conversation,” says Lax. Some of the show’s story elements can be particularly triggering for some audience members. Lax deliberately chose not to include trigger warnings on the show’s promotional material, instead opting for a non-specific pre-recorded warning at the start of the play to ease the audience into . “With any show, you can’t necessarily say that there will be a rape scene in this and there will be a piece on HIV and sex and whatever,” argues Lax. “In a way, that defeats the purpose of your show. That was my call and it might have been a bad call, but I think there’s a maturity in the audience that needs to be respected as well.” Every show is followed by a question and answer session where students are encouraged to interrogate the cast and director about the show. They are allowed to ask cast members to answer as themselves or as their characters in the show.
The discussion session always lends itself to incredibly vigorous debate, with audiences always getting hung up on one or two particular scenes. You can watch two of these scenes below. Trigger warnings for racism and classism Words by Abbey Hudson and Stuart Thembisile Lewis