Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/7/2019 (928 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This is not a kids show.
Do not let the cute zebra picture in the program fool you — a copy-editing mistake. This is not one of Erik de Waal’s South African folktale shows. In fact, it should come with a very strong warning right off the top — there are graphic scenes of rape, especially of sexual violence perpetrated on LGBTTQ+ people. I’m pretty sure a young woman in front of me ducked out halfway through because of the unexpected brutality.
Despite this, and despite two big flaws, de Waal gets points for a risky, visceral and political call to arms. This is how art makes things better.
De Waal has created a series of short character sketches that are based on real stories told to him after he found himself in a Twitter storm of homophobic messages and threats. De Waal’s scenes go from the uncomfortable — a teenage boy has his first sexual encounter with his friend’s mom — to the gang rape of a goofy young gay kid out on the town with his gal pals. De Waal’s forthrightness as a storyteller, the escalating tension of his pacing and the humanity of his characters make the final violence almost too much to bear.
This is clearly a work in progress and, as a simple piece of art, suffers from two flaws. First, de Waal can’t write real teenagers — his 15-year-old has a Harry Potter-themed birthday party and speaks like he’s straight out of Leave it to Beaver. Second, the power of de Waal’s stories is undermined by a lecture-y, protest-style speech he delivers at the end, enumerating headlines and stats and admonishing us to do better. His point is delivered exponentially better by his art than his speechifying.
—Mary Agnes Welch