Suit up for tearful ride

Suit up for tearful ride
Actress Nonhlanhla Kheswa (above, in a scene from The Suit) on the play directed by Peter Brook.

South African actress Nonhlanhla Kheswa's voice is gravelly with exhaustion when she first answers the telephone.

The 30-year-old is in Tokyo, Japan, where she has been performing in The Suit to appreciative audiences despite struggling with jet lag.

But speaking about the production, directed by the legendary British director Peter Brook, 88, immediately perks her up.

The lead actress tells Life! that performing in Japan, in a language not native to her audience members, had worried her at first - what if it were misunderstood? But The Suit seemed to cut effortlessly across cultures.

Kheswa says: "But they'd follow the story, and some people cried in the end, like every night. We had mild criers, but in Italy, we had people bawling."

This weekend (Nov 22-25), The Suit concludes the 3 Titans Of Theatre series, jointly presented by the Esplanade and the Singapore Repertory Theatre, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with this critically acclaimed triple bill.

The series opened with British theatre company's Complicite's Shun-kin in August and had a sold-out run of the Ninagawa Company's Musashi earlier this month. The Suit is sold out.

The story of The Suit is a deceptively simple one.

It started out as a five-page tale written by South African writer Can Themba and was then adapted for the stage in the 1990s by Mothobi Mutloatse and Barney Simon at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, shortly after apartheid began to crumble in South Africa.

Based on this, Brook first created a French version of the play, Le Costume (1999) before returning to its original English for this production, which is speckled with haunting music and song.

In it, a devoted husband catches his wife in bed with her lover. Enraged and upset, he puts her through a punishment both simple and sadistic involving a crucial piece of clothing - a suit jacket.

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