The Color Purple SA: A Display of Black Girl Magic

A REVIEW BY NYAKALLO MOTLOUNG

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The Color Purple SA: A Display of Black Girl Magic

I was brought to tears by this musical, not only because of the magic I was seeing on stage but also because of how much I, as an actress, wanted to be on that stage. This was due to the immense level of quality presented to us at the Mandela Theatre. This is saying a lot since I have never been the biggest fan of musicals. Although this may be due to the fact that I am bitter about not being born with the ability to sing. Nonetheless, a stunning production is a stunning production, regardless of being a fan of the medium. And that is exactly what The Color Purple SA is…stunning!

The Color Purple is a novel written by black American author, Alice Walker in 1982 and was later adapted as a film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film cast included an astonishing cast with names such as Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover so expectations for this South African musical were sky high. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed in the slightest.
The Color Purple SA, staged at the Joburg Theatre, is directed by Janice Honeyman, famous for her immense contribution to musicals and pantomime in South Africa especially. The production, set in Georgia, USA in the early 1900s, tells the heart-breaking but inspiring tale of Celie, a black women who is the face of domestic violence, sexual abuse and a broken spirit. Celie, played by Didintle Khunou (a dear friend of mine) portrayed the role with such grace and truth. Her character journey was a delight to watch; from a timid and submissive southern wife to a confident, independent woman ‘who don’t need no man’. It is truly inspiring for a black woman like myself to see Celie glowing and growing in all her self-love and to see her singing ‘I’m Here’, the song where she finally sees her true self and leaves her abusive and degrading husband, Mister (Aubrey Poo). Celie finally realises she is worthy and enough of all the good things in the world. Additionally, her relationships and bonds with her sister Nettie (Sebe Leotlela), Shug Avery (Lerato Mvelase) and Sophia (Neo Motaung) who are all portrayals of proud and commanding black women are a reflection of the love and hope that comes with black sisterhood.

Finally, I want to talk about the three town gossips, Darlene (Lelo Ramasimong), Doris (Dolly Louw) and Jarene (Ayanada Sibisi). I absolutely loved these women. They served as the chorus and commentary of the show. The trio performed in snippets but completely blew me away or rather, snatched my wig, honey! Their harmonising was so beautiful and the unity between their voices and the incredible live band was, for lack of better wording, music to my ears. The ladies were witty and exciting and left me wanting more and more. If I had only three words to describe them, they would be #BlackGirlMagic.

This production goes down as one of my favourite musicals, along with Kakadu, which was also staged at the Joburg Theatre last year.  I would give it 4.5 starts out of 5 stars, with my only criticism being the lack of consistency of the accents with regards to some characters. Nonetheless, The Color Purple SA is truly a force to be reckoned with and deserves all the glory it has been receiving and will continue to receive.

It will be staged at the Joburg Theatre until Sunday 4 March 2018. If you miss it, you will truly be missing out!

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‘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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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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Rocking the Festival of Fame

fof-top-img2.pngIn March 2016, three of the members of The Movement RSA, Mahlatsi Mokgonyana, Billy Langa and Mlindeli Zondi, took part in the Festival of Fame – a week long theatrical festival which is hosted by Assitej SA and the National School of Arts.

Mlindeli starred as Madiba in ‘Making Mandela’, which was recently nominated for several Naledi Awards. And all three gentlemen starred in ‘Sex and Me’, an educational play directed by Craig Morris and Clara Vaughan which is aimed at teenagers to address issues around sex and sexual identity.

Well done to all!

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See poster for ‘Sex and Me’ below, as well as a link to the trailer for ‘Making Mandela’.

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Making Mandela:

Binnie Christie taking our breath away

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In March 2016, member of The Movement RSA, Binnie Christie, was invited to stage a show for Joburg Theatre as a part of the Youth Development Programme. Binnie wrote and directed ‘You Take My Breath Away’, which was devised with the cast members Joe Young and Neo Sibiya. The quirky romantic comedy was warmly received by audiences, and invited back to the Space.com in 2017. Congratulation to Binnie and the cast on this successful show!

Our first project: ‘Just Antigone’

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Our first project as a company was putting on a version of Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ which encapsulated all three Greek myths surrounding the young heroine. The script, adapted by Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and Billy Langa, infuses traditional heightened text with modern slang and colloquialisms, making the show accessible for modern audiences, in particular the youth.

During January and February 2016, the company rehearsed at the Joburg Theatre before moving into POPArt Theatre in Maboneng, where they performed four shows to sold out crowds. Some of the audience included Johannesburg high schools which are currently studying Antigone as a setwork. The cast and crew hosted a ‘Question and Answer’ session for these schools, to give the learners insight into the show and production process.

The Movement RSA was very grateful to have such a warm reception to our first professional debut!