‘Out of Joint’ – review by Star Tlali

STAR TLALI

On Thursday night, the 17th of August 2017, “Out of Joint” opened at The Joburg Theatre (Fringe Theatre) with almost a full house of audience members in the auditorium. The show began in darkness, and we start to hear the voices of the performers on stage asking a variety of questions of: “if I sting you…will you die?/ if I kiss you…will you smile?” as the different spotlights revealed the six  performers on stage.  We start on a journey which explored “the social orders that are bursting out of joint”; as mentioned in the beginning of the show, “Out of Joint” is a Physical Theatre piece that focused on the exploration of the issues of ‘power and powerlessness’. With the cast of two females and four males, we see the power struggles of the individual and the social body throughout the work. Choreographed by the celebrated South African dancer, choreographer, teacher, director, scriptwriter and founder of Vuyani Dance Theatre (VDT), Gregory Maqoma, alongside the Austrian born dancer, choreographer, artistic director, festival curator and founder of steptext dance project in Schwankhalle Bremen, Helge Letonja; you could see the combination of the cross-cultures/training background of the two choreographers in this work.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this work was the precision and the unison during the ensemble choreography. I enjoyed how much the group phrases reminded me of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreographically technique of breaking phrases down into and out of the original phrase, which always creates an interesting dynamic rhythmically & visually to the work.  Each dancer got a chance to show off their skills during their solos, and each solo had a different quality to it, which showed the dancers in their most powerful &  yet vulnerable form as they would somehow get interrupted or consumed by the other bodies in the space.  There was a merge of different styles of dance within the piece, such as hip-hop influences of ‘krump & tutting’, contemporary dance and even a touch of African dance, which added different textures to the work. I really enjoyed the different shapes created by the bodies in the space and the use of space was also as interesting, where the back of the stage was used, creating a separate platform for the piece.

The design for the whole piece was generally very simple and minimal, with the costume choice of everyday clothes in four main colors: blue, red, black and navy green. There was a white cloth with big holes hanging at the back of the stage in which at some point glowed in the dark, was later taken down and back up towards the end of the show. My only concern regarding this set design was that it was not used to its full capacity, in the sense that; I do not think it was needed. There was only one dancer (Mariko Koh) who had a costume change (first with the wedding dress and then in her underwear). I would have loved it if she stayed in her underwear (or at least half dressed), and/or joined by the rest of the ensemble also half-dressed to represent them reclaiming their bodies from the structures of the social body which had all the power in the beginning piece. One thing that caught my attention in terms of the lighting was when there was a blackout for a while, leaving the stage empty with no action, and I personally found it unfortunate because it took me out of the world of the story for a little bit. Though in general the lights were simple and created different shapes around the stage which added different dynamics to the bodies in the space.

Out of Joint” in general was a very abstract piece, because at times it seemed like there were many elements to it for the audience to register at one go, which somewhat alienated the audience at some points. I feel like the work was not for audience members who were not used to physical theatre works; which is the general feeling I got from some audience members after the show. Though for those who enjoy physical theatre, will be able to enjoy the skill of dance presented by the performers as well as find different interpretations to the themes within the work.  With only a four day run at the Fringe Theatre, “Out of Joint” ended on the 20th of August, at 14h00. Those who were able to catch it will walk out experiencing a European-South African collaboration between the choreographers and the performers, exploring issues that are very relevant today in the world as a whole.

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ANKOBIA – A review by Malebogo ‘Lucky’ Mqoboli

A short review of Ankobia by Malebogo ‘Lucky’ Mqoboli

Ankobia visibly employs various political satire conventions and borrows from Afrofuturism aesthetics. As such, it is present in the future. Ankobia privileges the African mode of thought, values, and morals as proposed and detailed by Afrocentric and Afrofutirstic visual and audio creatives and theoreticians alike (African intelligentsia class).

Ankobia boldly exposes the illusion and the promises manufactured by the dominant religion discourse and how it purports the notion of freedom. The play successfully tackles the meta-narrative (i.e. the importance of land) theme that continues to reside in the imagination of post-apartheid South African black youth.Through its theatrics, we are reminded that Africans have been deeply connected to the land. And we must not shy away from that. Land means dignity to Africans.

Additionally, Ankobia confronts the liberal sensibilities using allegory and African idioms and proverbs (in this case SeTswana cultural codes) as extended pictorial and linguistic metaphors to express the notion of freedom and individual experiences of black people after the performed injustices of slavery and colonialism upon the African continent.

Throughout the play, Ankobia visits the prevailing tensions between African Traditional Religion and Christianity. We are challenged to interrogate our Bantu Afrikan Spirituality as the solution to our modern day philosophical, ideological and ontological crisis. Therefore, there is an implied suggestion that, black Africans must return to the source and champion their consciousness and reach for a higher self. I’d say it presents us with some answers and clues.

Pula!

Ase!

 

‘Ankobia’ premiered at Rhodes Theatre for NAF 2017, and will be on at the Market Theatre until the 13th August 2017. To book tickets visit: https://www.webtickets.co.za/event.aspx?itemid=1472721880

Show information:

Co-writers: Monageng Vice Motshabi & Omphile Molusi
Director: Monageng Vice Motshabi

Performers:
Katlego Letsholonyana
Alfred Motlhapi
Billy Langa
Lillian Tshabalala
Momo Matsunyane
Omphile Molusi

THE MOVEMENT RSA would like to thank Lucky for his contribution towards One Person’s Opinion!

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La Boheme

By Nyakallo Motloung

Although I am a big theatre goer, I am a novice with regards to opera and that is why I was excited when I was invited to the opening night of La Boheme at the Joburg Theatre. La Boheme is an age-old but timeless love and loss story between a young couple, Rodolfo and Mimi. The opera is a Gauteng Opera production directed by Marcus Desando, music by the Gauteng Opera Orchestra and conducted by Eddie Clayton. The cast consists of local performers and they really sold me there. I had never seen an opera live and to see the mainly black cast list got me even more excited and internally, I was singing Solange Knowles’ F.U.B.U. But, I digress. Additionally, being a lover of poor theatre, it is always a great experience for me to see the other side of the game, consisting of grand sets and costumes.

So I sat in my seat with great expectations, awaiting the show to start. The curtain opened and I saw a simple but lovely set. I could tell instantly that the opera had been modernised as I saw the chic apartment of Rodolfo and Macello and their modern costume. Unfortunately my heart sank a bit as I struggled to hear the male performers in the beginning and was not helped much by the confusing subtitles. Performers’ lack of projection on stage always makes me feel as though I am looking from the outside on an inside joke, which is very isolating. But I was not deterred, I sat on the edge of my seat and adjusted my concentration from 100 to 110. However, I was instantly taken by Marcello (Solly Motaung) whose voice and physicality was a pleasure to watch throughout the show. His charm went beyond his character. Motaung’s presence on stage and ability to engage the audience was really satisfying to watch. A trait which I was expecting more from Rodolfo (Phenye Modiane) who was the leading man and protagonist of the show. He truly has a beautiful voice and his interactions with Mimi really warmed my heart. However, there is a gentleness in Rodolfo that I feel Modiane played too far and as a result, made him shrink on stage. His actions were too small and there was a lack of commitment in them that made me want to listen to rather than watch him.

However, I was really blown away by Mimi (Khayakazi Madlala). What a star. Her voice really gave me a visceral reaction. I could not hold back from shouting “YAAS GIRL” when she hit those high notes and I would like to apologise to the two ladies who sat beside me. But also, #SorryNotSorry. We had been told that Madlala is a second year student at Gauteng Opera it is such a pleasure to see a new talent who I hope will go very far. Not only was I taken by her voice but also by how well her physicality connected to her voice. The same can be said for the gorgeous Musetta (Litho Nqai). My goodness! I just loved her vocal range and the way she took control of the stage. It was not only in the writing but also in the body of Nqai. As I stated, I am but an eager novice in the world of opera but I am a self-proclaimed expert in spotting performers enjoying themselves on stage; which was what drew me to Motaung, Madlala and Nqai.

My (very high) expectations were not met fully but overall, I enjoyed the show and I have learnt that I really need to watch more opera. Really! I would definitely recommend the show, especially to opera lovers. You have a chance to do so at the beautiful Mandela Theatre at the Joburg Theatre from the 20 – 23rd of July.

Get your tickets at https://www.joburgtheatre.com/la-boheme

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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.

 

 

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/