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The Theatreguide.London Review

The Ice Cream Boys
Jermyn Street Theatre    Autumn 2019

'Zuma, Zuma!' chant the crowds outside the hospital where former President Zuma of South Africa is receiving treatment, in Gail Louw's play The Ice Cream Boys, which imagines an accidental meeting between Zuma and a critic of his behaviour Ronnie Kasrils, a former leading member of the African National Congress

Kasrils, also a patient at the hospital, can't resist the opportunity to have a chat about a few things with his old comrade.

Despite their differences they still regard each other with some affection. Zuma is immediately in laddish mode, bragging that he has four wives, many 'mistresses' and twenty-six children.

Kasrils gently observes that Zuma is the 'populist with the roving eye' but later bitterly recalls the claim by a young female Aids activist named Fezeka that while a guest at the Zuma home, Zuma had raped her.

The first person she told after the rape was Kasrils who, by that time a public critic of Zuma's corruption, felt he couldn't publicly support her.

Andrew Francis as Jacob Zuma and Jack Klaff as Ronnie Kasrils confidently and believably bring to life these once leading activists in the struggle against apartheid.

The encounter is entertaining and fascinating, but it leaves us with the impression that Zuma is simply a corrupt clown with a predatory abusive attitude to women, which doesn’t really help us understand why he behaved the way he did, or continued to win considerable popular support.

In brief memory scenes, Bu Kuene plays, among others, Eleanor the wife of Kasiles, who once embarrassed the apartheid regime with her escape from prison, Nelson Mandela on his return from Davos in 1992 insisting they had to follow the free market edicts of the IMF, and an MP arguing against those policies.

However, it is as the young hospital nurse Thandi that Kuene becomes a voice from a restless new generation who, though not disagreeing with Kaslies, argues that that the pair are fighting old battles.

'You became complaisant in power and you left the people behind.. What I want is a job and a home and a decent salary..I don't want corruption and I don't want inequality.'

Keith McKenna

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Review -  The Ice Cream Boys - Jermyn Street Theatre 2019