The 2013 Musho! Theatre Festival has kicked off Durban’s theatre calendar with a bang, staging some of the most beautifully written and performed original works from South Africa, Africa and elsewhere.
The festival got rolling on Wednesday with a small welcoming ceremony and two opening plays, Veil and London’s Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister.
Tonight attended a few of the shows and the closing ceremony on Sunday night. Here’s a wrap of what Musho! brought to stage:
• Veil: Written and directed by Zwai Mgijima (assistant director Bandile Mkhize) and performed by Fortunate Dhlomo and Bhekani Shabalala, it’s the tragic love story of Ali, a Somalian refugee, and Nosipho, a regular South African youth just trying to get by.
The two form an unexpected relationship while Nosipho works at Ali’s shop in her community and they have a child together. But how will Nosipho’s community and Ali’s brotherhood respond, and how will they each respond to society’s reaction towards them?
A cleverly written script allows the audience to gain much insight into issues around xenophobia, including the war zones refugees flee and the more social war zones they land in on foreign ground.
We also get to understand the emotional struggles of people from different worlds who fall in love in a society that is generally intolerant.
Kudos to Dhlomo and Shabalala for their amazing performances. They connected with their characters, guiding the audience through the different emotions contained in the script.
I’ve seen both the actors in an array of productions from dramas to adult panto to a cappella South African musicals, and this is by far their best performance.
• Sometimes I laugh Like My Sister: Based on the true story of BBC producer Kate Peyton’s death while on assignment in Somalia. Kate, who was based in Joburg for 10 years, was reporting on the situation in Mogadishu in 2005 when she was attacked.
Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister is Kate’s sister, Rebecca Peyton’s, one-woman show about her sister’s death.
The play touches on an array of issues from the events leading up to and after Kate’s death, providing some enlightenment on the issues of politics and journalism. It also delves into the emotional ups and downs while working through grief.
The audience gains some insight into Rebecca’s personal experience. While the piece is constructed around Rebecca’s reactions to Kate’s death, you learn that when it comes to these kinds of emotional issues, it is much the same no matter which part of the world you are from.
Co-written with German theatre director Martin M Bartelt, Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister also delves into issues of censorship, racism and the challenging of taboos around death.
• Fishy Flippers: This children’s theatre offering was a collaboration between Creative Beans and Clowns Without Borders South Africa.
Fishy Flippers was created and performed by Annabel Morgan and Nadia Maria Woodward and proved to be a hit with kids and adults alike who attended Saturday’s show.
The duo use playful storytelling in their performance of a tale about a boy who finds a lost penguin on his doorstep. Weaved into the story are lessons on loneliness and friendship.
Morgan and Woodward’s choice to mix clowning and storytelling was a good one as it creates a light-hearted atmosphere, the children are more involved in the show and the medium creates a space for the performers to share a great rapport with the audience.
Added bonuses are that the children become part of the play as they are taught to make sounds with their bodies (for wind and rain) that become part of the background score. Also, the humour of the production is such that even the adults can enjoy it.
I liked the subtle use of a mix of Zulu and English in the script, which is great for teaching kids the basics (such as greetings) of another language.
A success all around!
• Allegations: Spud, who is a white farmer, and Reason, a black villager, are two Zimbabweans who are attending a truth and reconciliation session. The two meet during a break and what unfolds is an honest reflection of the realities faced by black and white people in previously colonised and segregated countries such Zimbabwe and South Africa, to name a few.
Two men from two opposite ends of life, but both equally wronged and robbed of their livelihoods and families, and both seeking the same thing – justice.
Uncensored and to-the-point writer, Mandisi Gobodi, has done an excellent job of representing reality. Director Patience Tawengwa and her cast of Dan Hargrove and Everson Ndlovu deserve kudos for their honest representation of this work.
• Brothers, a production by the Umsindo Productions group (a Twist development theatre group from Durban), marked a well-deserved move up for the group from the fringe to the main stage.
Written by twin brothers Bongumusa and Musawenkosi Shabalala, and Jerry Pooe, and directed by the twins, Brothers is a clever play centred on twin brothers who started at the same point, but now in adulthood find they are worlds a part. One is a popular politician, the other, a gun for hire.
As the story of these two brothers unfolds one can’t help but see the metaphorical lines drawn between them and South Africa today. Sacrifices are made by all to help a child advance out of poverty and into a better life, but this is not reciprocated and that better life is only enjoyed by the few and not shared with the masses who made the sacrifices.
Cleverly written, passionately performed.
• Elnora and Nirvana: Written and performed by Nieke Lombard and directed by Stephanie Brink, Nirvana is Elnora’s spirit who, in her old age, spends Elnora’s last days with her recollecting past memories. Elnora’s inner child is also at her side as she grapples with her life’s end. As the interactions between the three unfold on stage, issues of life’s beginning, its journey and its end are tackled.
The techniques of the acclaimed Handspring Puppet Company, and Lombard’s excellent character portrayal of each character representing a stage in Elnora’s life and Nirvana; bring the puppets to life.
MUSHO TWIST DEVELOPMENT THEATRE (FRINGE)
This year two plays from community theatre groups in KwaZulu-Natal, who are mentored by seasoned arts practitioners, were staged.
Save My Soul, created by Siyakha Performing Artists under mentor Themba Mkhoma, tells the story of an otherwise withdrawn death row prisoner whose silence is broken by a nun who – after much resistance from him – is able to counsel him.
As the story unfolds we learn of his abuse as a child and how this led to his committing the crime.
The audience is also given insight into some of the social ills that still drown our communities today such as sexual abuse and the less obvious dangers such as unforgiveness and the resulting emotional and psychological trauma that often goes unnoticed.
The second Twist offering, Fikile, was created by the Emuhle All Artists group under mentor Neil Coppen.
The play is of a refreshingly different subject matter that looks at issues of love versus traditional values for a young graduate who is returning home from Cape Town to rural Gamalakhe on KZN’s South Coast where she is to honour a marriage proposal made to her in her youth.
The play is written in such a way that the audience gains much insight into these kinds of issues that plague many women from rural areas.
But it is also exciting to watch as the plot involves a love-triangle and an unexpected twist.
MUSHO NEW VOICES PROGRAMME
It was a great treat to watch four plays under this programme which sees young writers, directors and performers flex their creative muscles on stage. The result was four South African plays, with each tackling a unique subject in a remarkably professional fashion.
• Looking into the Abyss, written and directed by Sabelo Ndlovu and Menzi Mkhwane and performed by Mkhwane, got the ball rolling – setting the bar very high for the productions to follow.
As this story of the mysterious killing of a young girl in uMlazi unfolds, some hair-raising truths on an array of issues are revealed: from child abuse to the abuse that goes ignored for the sake of protecting a breadwinner, to community vigilantism, poor policing and more.
Mkhwane’s performance stayed true to these harsh realities as he delivered each character with aplomb. From a prisoner to an abused boy to an abusive father, a nosy trouble-maker in the community and more, he was passionate and fluid with each character and character transition. A creatively penned story, matched by an amazing performance.
• Behind the Curtain of Justice, written and directed by Radwinn Paul van Wyk and performed by Musa Ntuli and Monde Tshazi, was an interesting piece about a police detective who gets a surprise visit from an old high school friend – who also happens to be an undercover cop investigating his old friend.
The audience is kept in suspense throughout as the lives of these two officers unfold while this undercover operation gets under way. The banter between them ensures the suspense is lightened with splashes of sarcasm and light moments which often leave the audience in hysterics.
The piece also highlights the real-life issues of corrupt policing and psychological checks and care for the officers, which are often viewed as unimportant. Performed by Musa Ntuli and Monde Tshazi, this was a refreshingly different subject.
• Race Trouble, written and directed by Devaksha Moodley and performed by Kamini Govender and Christopher Ndabenhle Tobo, it uses a house robbery/attack on a young Indian woman to address issues of racism and prejudice in society in general and those we harbour within ourselves, too.
The usually taboo subject is tackled graciously and honestly, with the performances of both actors complementing what the writer set out to achieve.
• Mob Feel, written and directed by Kline Smith and performed by Mpilo Nzimande and TQ Zondi, is an interesting take on prejudice and “mob justice” in warring communities. A couple who are from two communities at odds must cultivate a relationship in secret, lest they be killed for dating someone from the opposing faction.
As the story unfolds, insight is gained into local communities. From baseless prejudice to community agitators and the related mob justice that is carried out, we learn the senselessness of it all.
The use of mixed-media imagery and poetry to explain the damaging effects of mob mentalities in townships and being caught up in such brings the piece to life.
Kudos to both actors who give great performances.
And the winners are...
• Audience Favourite Award (Main): The Epicene Butcher and other stories. Produced by Daddy’s Little Secret (Joburg), written by Gwydion Beynon, directed by John Trengove and illustrated and performed by Jemma Kahn, with assistance from Klara van Wyk and Carlos Amato; and Fishy Flippers. A Creative Beans and Clowns Without Borders SA collaboration. Created and performed by Annabel Morgan and Nadia Maria Woodward. Assistant director: Jamie McLaren Lachman.
• Audience Favourite Award (Fringe): Looking into the Abyss Produced by Nu-Breed Productions. Written and directed by Sabelo Ndlovu and Menzi Mkhwane, performed by Mkhwane.
• Suliman Selection Award: Le Chop TV. Written by Cobus van Heerden, directed by Liam Magner and David Gouldie, and performed by Cobus van Heerden.
• Best Performer (Main): Cobus van Heerden (Le Chop TV).
• Best Performer (Fringe): Siphosihle Cele (Fikile).
• Outstanding Production (Fringe): Mob Feel. Written and directed by Kline Smith and performed by Mpilo Nzimande
and TQ Zondi. Mentored by Peter Mitchell.
• Best Script: The Epicene Butcher and other Stories.
• Special Mention: Everson Ndlovu for his performance in Allegations.