Matthew Ribnick is not your average actor and his performance in the highly acclaimed ‘Hoot’ is testament to his supreme acting talent which has been horned over a number of years.
As is the norm with his other productions such as The Chilli Boy (2002) and Monkey Nuts (2009), in Hoot (2005) Matthew plays multiple quintessentially South African characters who are all caught-up in one way or another by the well documented challenges which continue to bedevil the ‘rainbow nation’ from the contentious race and class issues, inequality, unemployment, rampant crime and violence.
While these issues are not new, Matthew brings a refreshing and thought-provoking perspective to them not only because he is a white actor (in a predominantly black country) where many of the issues disproportionately affect the majority black population, he also seems to have a keen sense of social and political awareness of the complexities of these challenges and why more than twenty years after independence South Africa continues to grapple with them.
From playing his wife, to a number of colourful taxi drivers (given that in the play he himself becomes a taxi driver after he loses his job and house) and then back to himself , it is quite amazing to observe how he is able to fluidly almost like ‘a duck taking to water’ move seamlessly from one character to the next and the next and then back to himself with such flawlessness and assured confidence.
Working with his creative collaborator and wife, Geraldine Naidoo who co-writes (together with Matthew), directs and produces all of Matthew Ribnicks’s work – the duo has come to be known for the richness of the stories they tackle in their productions, the colourfulness of the characters who bring to life these stories and the authenticity of their portrayal of what it means to be white and priviledged or black and poor as well all the other challenges of post-Apartheid South Africa.
It is no surprise then that Ribnick and Naidoo’s work written mostly in the 2000’s continues to be relevant and has over the years won them numerous awards.
HOOT, co-written and directed by Geraldine Naidoo and performed by Matthew Ribnick was at P.O.P Art in Maboneng, Johannesburg from 28 November – 1 December 2019
Tonderai Chiyindiko is a part-time arts writer and contributor. He holds a B.A honours degree in drama from the University of Zimbabwe and a Masters degree in Applied Drama from University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He has been part and parcel of the theatre-verse both as an actor and director and more generally worked extensively within the cultural and creative industries sector in various capacities.