Review – Woza Albert

By Nyaki Motloung

There is a beauty in the combination of protest theatre and poor theatre that will live for a thousand years and explains why Woza Albert! will keep returning to our theatres. And for these reasons and many more, it was a so heartwarming for me to see Soweto Theatre’s Red Theatre being packed on the opening night of the play.

Woza Albert! is a political South African satire which imagines the second coming of “Morena” in South Africa during the apartheid-era. Morena is the Christ-like figure whose arrival is much anticipated by many black South Africans and is a threat to the apartheid government as he is rumoured to bring salvation for the black people.

The largely self directed two man cast are required to play many characters such as a street vendor, barber and government officials in a bid to express the varied opinions of the arrival of Morena. And what we see is a spectacle where voices and bodies fill a stage with such a confidence that the (very minimal but effective) set, lighting and costume become just a cherry on top of this delicious cake.

Hamilton Dhlamini is a veteran in the performance of the play and displays the eloquence, wit and comedic timing which come from great discipline and and commitment to this great story. His swift changes from characters such as a black migrant worker to the worker’s white employee are so crisp and as an actor myself, I highly respect his continuining level of commitment to every role.

On the other hand, Bheki Mkhwane is new to the role and this performance was the first time I had seen him perform on a stage, whereas I have watched him many times on television. Filling the shoes of Mncedisi Shabangu, who was previously part of the Woza Albert! duo is no easy role. At times, I found myself missing Shabangu’s humour and ease on stage. However, being a creature of habit, I realised that change isn’t a bad thing. At all. One of the necessities of long living productions such as this, is the ability to re-imagine and alter. And in this case, the re-imaginaing came with the change in casting. It is not Mkhwane’s role to replace Shabangu. He was not tasked to fill anyone’s shoes and he did not; he brought his own shoes and boy, he wore them well.

Mkhwane, for me, brought an element which I can only explain as a father telling a story to his children which is close to his heart (this is not a comment in his age, okay. Ngicela ning’yeke). He takes control of his roles and when he calls izithakazelo there is a beautiful reaction from the audiences with whistling, clapping and a “yaaaaas'” here and there because many black Twitter has taught us new and different ways of expressing ourselves.

Although there were some opening night nerves and minor mishaps which can, and I am sure have been, improved such as forgetting to use props at the correct time and volume drops, the play is truly stunning. Dhlamini and Mkhwane are a two man talent army and a force to be reckoned with. I highly recommend this play and recommend that you you take a friend or three because there are some hilarious moments which you don’t want to be laughing at alone.

The production has only two shows remaining and will close on 22 February. Check out Soweto Theatre’s website to book your tickets.

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New Writing at Monologue Mondays

Before the 1st Monologue Monday of 2017, the organisers gave several writers a Shakespearean Sonnet each, and asked them to write a ‘response’ to it. Some writers stuck to the sonnet form, and others wrote in a very different style to the original texts, but all were pieces of writing we think Shakespeare would have appreciated… These original works, called ‘love letters’ were then given to random audience members upon entry, and then read at the end of the night. This allowed the writers an invaluable opportunity of hearing a cold reading of their original works – a crucial thing for anyone wanting to edit and improve their writing.

Below is a monologue response to Sonnet 35, written by Binnie Christie

ORIGINAL – SONNET 35

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RESPONSE: ‘Have Faith’ by Binnie Christie

The lines in bold have been taken directly from the original.

Character: Female. Say’s one thing, mean’s another. 

Speaking kindly and sincerely to her lover:

Forgive yourself now… We all make mistakes. Forgive yourself so that we can both move on. You’ve confessed it. And I’ve forgiven you. So let’s just move on. And forget about it. Ok?

I’ve forgotten everything. And I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Or think about it. Or keep questioning… And I certainly don’t want to ask questions like: Did you sweep her off her feet and onto our bed? Did she lie, dripping on my grandmother’s quilt? Or – Had you fucked her in the car that day I said it smelt like – ? And  – Did she buy that watch you’re wearing, that you said Eric gave you? See, I don’t’ want to know things like – Did you tell me because you love me, or because you actually don’t love me at all?

So let’s get past it, alright? Because no one is perfect. (Joking) I’m sure even Jesus had his moments. And at least you’ve owned up to yours. .. You confessed it to me. Like I’m God – that you’ve been on your knees one too many times without praying… I washed away the sins and now so must you. (Sweetly) You have to forgive yourself for being such a cheating bastard. And remember that at least you’re not a lying, cheating bastard. Because you were honest. You’re an honest man, aren’t you? Aren’t you?

Have faith in having admitted your unfaithfulness, and let’s let go of it all. Like I said every rose has thorns… Even I’m not perfect. My biggest mistake being that I love you. And that I hate myself for it. Such civil war is in my love and hate. 

But I work on it. Every day I pray, give myself a good talking to, and try to forgive myself. For being so weak. So pathetic. For making excuses for us both. I console myself about your faults and mine, excusing the fact that you are who you are, and that I love you for it. That instead of settling down, I’ve settled.

(Reassuring) But one thing I am completely settled on is that we can move past this. You’ve just got to try. Pray, and try forgive yourself daily. And most importantly of all, just have faith.

 

 

1st Monologue Monday of 2017

Normally it would be ‘black Monday’ in the theatre-world, but this Monday 6th of February The Movement RSA participated in the 1st ‘Monologue Mondays’ of 2017. The event, hosted by Andz Mpinda and her incredible creative team, was held at The Hive in Braamfontein. The unconventional venue, which usually exhibits artwork, had performers set up in various corners (and a stairway too) as though living sculptures – reminiscent of shows such as Brett Bailey’s ‘Exhibit A’ and Mwenya Kabwe’s ‘Nomads Among Us’. The audience moved from one space to the next, watching as the actors performed either Shakespearian sonnets or modern monologues about love. Love and romance was the theme of the evening, given Valentines Day next week and the artists’ love of theatre in general. At the end of the prepared performances, certain audience members were called up to read ‘love letters’ they had received upon entering the space. These love letters were new pieces by writers asked to create ‘responses’ to a particular Sonnet they’d been given by the organisers. Some were written in sonnet form, others in monologue form, but all were responses Shakespeare would have been proud of (keep a look out for some pieces on our blog).

A big thank you to the organisers of the event, LEON for providing such soulful music, The Hive, the writers, performers and readers, and of course the audience! It was wonderful to collaborate with you all.

Monologue Mondays will take place the 1st Monday of each month – meaning the next one is on the 6th of March (write it in your diary). To get involved or to get more info, kindly contact Andisiwe Mpinda (Director of Entsimini Produce and Monologue Mondays) at entsiminiproduce@gmail.com

Below is a like to a short video-slash-slideshow of the event. Forgive the poor quality. After all we’re theatre-makers, not film-makers.

7 Deadly Theatre Sins

By Binnie Christie

A list of sins committed by actors and audiences:  

1. Your phone going off: There’s this amazing new phone function! It’s called the ‘off’ button. Use it… Nobody wants to hear your ring tone as you struggle to find your phone in your bag or pocket. So keep those phones quiet, otherwise you might just be called an “asshole” by Jemma Khan (as happened during ‘We Didn’t Come to Hell for the Croissants’) or be embarrassed by King Creon (Jovan Muthray in ‘Just Antigone’).

2. Leaving/entering during a performance: Get to the theatre on time, and go to the bathroom before the show begins. The only excuse for leaving is in an emergency, like your wife having a baby or your Gran on her death bed, in which case you probably shouldn’t be at the theatre anyway… If you hate the show, bring some tomatoes instead of doing a walk-out. 

3. Using a prop for anything off-stage: The Movement RSA learnt this the hard way. On a very cold night during Grahamstown Fest we used the blankets from ‘Just Antigone’ as extra bedding, and then of course forgot them as the backpackers. Poor Campbell (the fastest driver!) had to dash home to get them less than an hour before we went on… Props break, get lost or stolen, so instead of giving your stage-manager a heart attack, leave them for the show! 

4. Saying ‘sorry’ if you forget your lines: There is no apology for apologizing on stage. Nor asking to start again… It’s called improv! 

5. Talking during a show: A quick comment to the person next to you is alright, but if you treat a performance like the Oprah Show, other people want to stab you. This is not about you! Chat in the foyer instead and don’t heckle the performers.  

6. Saying McBeezy in the theatre: This rule is so ingrained in me that I fear even writing the name of Shakespeare’s Scottish play. If you do utter it however, according to Nick Mayer (previously the Workshop manager of Wits Theatre) you must spit on the ground and turn around three times. 

7. Being in costume off-stage: Mahlatsi Mokgonyana will school you on this one! (We know). Sometimes it’s difficult as an actor to run to the bathroom without passing the audience, and all performers know how nerves can affect your bladder, but either change quickly back into your regular clothes, or bring a dressing gown, robe or invisibility cloak. 

Any rules we left out? Write a comment or submit your own rules.  

Reviewing Reviewers

By Binnie Christie, on behalf of The Movement RSA

As suggested by the name of our artistic collective, The Movement RSA seeks to move beyond our artistic comfort zones into new creative territories. One of these territories being writing which critically engages with the arts; aka ‘blogging’. Thus in 2017 we will be writing and releasing several articles, reviews and reflections which investigate all things theatre in South Africa

We believe that in order to make work, artists need to see work. Someone who has never been to the theatre, or who has not been to the theatre for a whiiiiiile, should not expect to make a show which is altogether relevant, new, or exciting compared to its current counterparts. By engaging with others we engage ourselves, assessing our work and its place (if any) in the industry.

By blogging The Movement RSA wishes to open up a space for all to engage in a critical conversation about art, I particular theatre. After watching a show, friends, family, partners and strangers will discuss or debate what they’ve seen, exposing themselves to different opinions and deeply interrogating all aspects of the production. These conversations are useful for audiences to digest what they’ve consumed, and critical for the creators to assess, affirm or improve their production. Our work is a product, and the audience are our consumers, so to feed their hearts, minds and soul we must cater and listen to them. Blogging allows an ongoing conversation where direct feedback such as Previews or Q+A’s are not possible.

A great motivation behind this project is that presently The Movement RSA feels there is a lack of diversity within local theatre critique, creating a monopoly of certain voices. When Googling “theatre critics in South Africa” the second website to appear is an article on Thought Leader by Sandile Memela entitled ‘Africa Has No Critics’(1). Though written eight years ago, the title and body of the piece point to several of current concerns, and begs important questions, such as: “where are the African critics, especially the young ones?”

It is problematic that the loudest voices seemingly come from a similar social background: middle-aged, privileged and white. I know this is ironic, given I’m at least two of those things, but the aim is to change all this, and this is only the first article of the blog after all…

The Movement RSA does not mean in any way to take away from the work of established critics; in fact we wish to do the opposite, and add to it. Nor do we pretend to be as knowledgeable, but perhaps we aim to be… We have opinions, and Wi-Fi (most of the time), and a dream for more audiences, artists and writers to engage with each other, given the incredible range of opinions out there.

To achieve this, our blog will be open to anyone who wishes to submit writing, or just leave a comment. The nine members of The Movement RSA seldomly agree on anything, particularly theatre, and so in keeping with the spirit of contradiction we invite you to join our great theatrical conversation.

All submissions will be showcased on our blog and social media sites (2), understanding that:

  • Our aim is to build, not to knock down. No person can bash another person or work without suggesting ways they feel the work may have been better built (an architect doesn’t destroy a building without a better model in place).
  • Our opinions are valid, provided they provide validation (i.e. – our opinions are not feelings; they must be backed by evidence). We don’t need Harvard referencing, just an example or two to substantiate your ideas.
  • Let’s encourage critical engagement of theatre, grow the artists and audiences, and hear some different voices.

One writer is one voice. Many writers could be a revolution… But to get there we need individuals to have their say. Therefore the blog will be entitled “One Man’s Opinion”. Or “One Woman’s Opinion” depending… Actually, let’s call it:

 ONE PERSON’S OPINION

What do you think? ‘Hate it or love it’ we’d like your 50 cents. So comment, share or write to us with your own stuff (using the email address the.movement.rsa.blog@gmail.com and the heading “One Person’s Opinion”).

 

References:

1) Link to Memela’s Article: http://thoughtleader.co.za/sandilememela/2009/08/12/the-african-continent-has-no-theater-critics/

2)  Find The Movement RSA on other social media sites:

Facebook Page: The Movement RSA (https://www.facebook.com/TheMovementRSA/)

Facebook Group: The Movement RSA (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1670441406538217/)

Twitter: The Movement RSA. @MovementRSA (https://twitter.com/MovementRSA)

Instagram: The Movement RSA. @the.movemet.rsa (https://www.instagram.com/the.movement.rsa/?hl=en)

3) The article image of ‘Shakespeare vs. the critic’ is taken from ATCA (American Theatre Critics Association): http://americantheatrecritics.org/

Blog on! Introducing: ONE PERSON’S OPINION

This February The Movement RSA will be introducing: One Person’s Opinion – a blog that invites anyone to write anything they want about theatre and art in South Africa.

Our aim is to open up a conversation between artists and audiences, encourage new writing, and hear different voices.

So blog on!

More details to follow soon.

To submit a work please email: the.movement.rsa.blog@gmail.com 

 

 

Full speed into 2017

It’s going to be a busy few months for members of The Movement RSA, albeit with projects outside of the company.

Catch Star Tlali in ‘Flatform’ (Facebook event:https://www.facebook.com/events/363747270668888/?hc_location=ufi)

Campbell Jessica Meas appears in ‘Book Marks’.

Mlindeli Zondi has written and is starring in ‘Gomora’.

And the dynamic directing duo are back – Mahlatsi DBoy Mokgonyana and Billy Edward are bringing you ‘The Summoning of Everyman’ in March. (Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1303743913001814/?hc_location=ufi)

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