Tony Miyambo in ’Kafka's Ape’. Picture: Supplied
Tony Miyambo in ’Kafka's Ape’. Picture: Supplied

Internationally renowned 'Kafka’s Ape' is a must-see SA play

By Kedibone Modise Time of article published Apr 22, 2021

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The Centre for the Less Good Idea is currently hosting a mini-season titled “A Kafka Moment” to pay tribute to prolific writer Franz Kafka.

His work features isolated protagonists, facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers.

He is known for exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity.

Some of the productions showcasing at the “A Kafka Moment” include “Kafka’s Ape”, “Odradek”, “A Common Confusion”, and “A Hunger Artist Hunger”.

The mini-season forms part of an invitation of “Kafka's Ape” by the University of Toronto, Canada, to showcase their work to an online audience.

Tony Miyambo and Phala Ookeditse Phala were invited to perform in Canada but their trip was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the Canadians encouraged them to do the show on a virtual platform.

While doing the show for the global audience, the pair, together with The Centre for Less Good Idea, decided that it’s best that they do a live show for the South African audiences.

Chatting with Miyambo, who doubles as the co-producer and the solo performer on “Kafka’s Ape”, the multi-faceted artist explains that it’s an honour for him to perform to the local audiences after being on a world tour for just under a decade.

In the show, which is adapted from Kafka’s classical text and titled, “A Report to an Academy”, Miyambo plays a bonobo ape, which was captured on the Gold Coast, then traded in South Africa in the Eastern Cape, and now lives in Johannesburg.

Tony Miyambo in ’Kafka's Ape’. Picture: Supplied

The show is directed and adapted by Phala, who is also the co-producer.

“I play an ape that realised that he needed to evolve in certain ways in order to ensure that he has an easier life. So he decided to be an academic performance ape.

“But in order to do that, he had to learn human characteristics,” shares Miyambo.

He adds: “But in the process of that learning, he now feels like he's no longer an ape. He's now been asked to come to deliver a report on his evolution.

“And he's saying to them, ‘you want me to speak to you like an ape, but I no longer identify as an ape’. Much like in humankind of existence, sometimes we don't identify as a certain gender. It’s the same thing, it's really an interesting story at the heart of identity.

Miyambo further explains that what he and Phala really wanted to focus on was “crafting the physicality of an ape, but also being fully be cognisant about the complexity of locating an ape in the black man's body” and the meaning behind it.

“It's been really incredible for us to adapt the show into the South African context. And that still, somehow, remains relevant, true and poignant.

“When we first did the show in 2009, it was our response to the xenophobic attacks that were happening at the time,” he reflects.

Tony Miyambo in ’Kafka's Ape’. Picture: Supplied

After the live performance on Thursday, April 22, audiences will be given an opportunity to interact with a panel of experts, that include the legendary artistic genius William Kentridge, renowned South African writer and academic Professor Jane Taylor, and theatre practitioners Phala Ookeditse Phala and Miyambo himself.

In the past nine years, the “Kafka’s Ape” team toured the world, scoring numerous awards, including the 2019 Outstanding Performance Award at The Prague Fringe Festival, 2019 Best Satire Award at the United Solo Festival in New York, and 2020 Best Theatre Award for week 3 at the Fringe Word festival.

Tickets cost R120. For more information and bookings click here.

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