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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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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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 

 

 

Robyn Sassen’s Review of ‘Just Antigone’

antigone

Nyakallo Motloung as Antigone. Photograph by Sabelo Ndumo. 

On the 18th of February, honored theatre critic Robyn Sassen wrote the following review about ‘Just Antigone’. For the original article, please click this link:  https://robynsassenmyview.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/electric-mix-of-frisky-youth-ancient-tragedy/

“Taking on Sophocles with electric abandon might not be the dream of just any drama graduate. The material is difficult, linguistically, morally and chronologically. The language is complex and bloody and some of the issues it embraces are impossible to get your head around without your heart (or belly) wanting to explode. But clearly none of this has daunted the young cast of seven – some of them in their professional debuts – in this absolutely astonishing work, which immediately raises the bar for theatre of this nature.

Just Antigone clocks in at under an hour, but the mesmerising focus and the sophisticated balance between contemporary gestures, asides to the audience and the horror of the moral double crossing of the original  plunges you into not only the internecine and devilish politics of ancient Greece, but also the tragedy of human frailty in the sight of ambition, power and one-upmanship.

The cast switch and change roles and genders as the generational tale, replete with the interjections of a chorus, unfurls, and the context of Oedipus, the father of Antigone, who tragically lands up killing his father and marrying his mother, is described with clarity, levity and wit, which never teeters into disrespect for the tradition or the circumstances. There is a resonance in this work with the meshed cultural texture that Neil Coppen achieved in his recent production of Animal Farm, blending time and idiosyncrasy in a way that hones the legibility of difficult material, but Just Antigone slips in and out of contemporary political phraseology and reference. It doesn’t hurt the work. It keeps you engaged.

Antigone (Nyakallo Motloung) is a loyal sister and a feisty challenge to her egotist uncle King Creon (Jóvan Muthray), who is at times so wrapped up in his own sense of authority that he becomes emotionally blind and quite frightening. Muthray’s delivery of this role is polished and convincing. And opposite him, Motloung is articulate and passionate. There’s a balance achieved here which is so fine and so much about trust and a sense of artistic authority that it takes your breath away.

In many respects, the unequivocal star of this work is Mlindeli Zondi – who you may have seen in Making Mandela – as the hapless Haemon, son of Creon and lover of Antigone. Torn between loyalty to his father and an understanding of his father’s deep moral flaws, not to mention his love for his girl who has dared to challenge Creon, he is left no alternative but to die at his own hand. The emotional and spiritual torsion central to this character is articulated with a great sense of finesse, never overacting, but oft overarching as a profound and intelligent catalyst to the tale.

But it hardly seems fair to isolate only three performers. The full ensemble feels dangerously beautiful in its concatenation of text, gesture and sinister nuance. Individually and collectively, they rise and soar with one another, dancing on the edge of the scripted text and expressing horror and catastrophe as they intermingle and dovetail. It’s a beautifully directed piece of work, and while the screaming which is necessary in the tale fills POPArts’s smallish tight space with harsh metallic fierceness, that might make you want to flee, the cast engages with the monumental reality of performing something as old as Sophocles with thoughtful wisdom.

Neither paralysed with respect, nor awash with hipness, under the directorial hand of Mahlatsi Mongonyana and Billy Langa, the cast offer Sophocles’s words, thoughts and reflections – and his indictments cast on the immorality and filth of society – in a palatable and fine context that is accessible and provocative, making you realise there is nothing quite as fine as a spot of Greek tragedy in central Johannesburg on a week night.

Arguably, this company of performers has what it takes to develop into the kind of repertory theatre that is capable of defining the industry. Watch each of these names: they have a great future ahead of them”.

  • Just Antigone is adapted from Sophocles’s Antigone by Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and directed by Mokgonyana and Billy Langa. It is performed by Binnie Christie, Sanelisiwe Jobodwana, Campbell Jessica Meas, Nyakallo Motloung, Jovan Muthray, Star Tlali and Mlindeli Zoni at POP Arts Theatre in central Johannesburg until February 21. Visit popartcentre.co.za

Thank you Robyn for this tremendous review!