Q&A with Momo Matsunyane

Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx.

THENX BATHONG:

THENX BATHONG: Wits Alumni Momo Matsunyane is a theatre practioner, actress, director and the co founder of the comedy sketch group, Thenx. Photo: Michelle Gumede

What is Thenx??

Thenx is a sketch comedy group which was created in 2008. We wanted to create a voice for ourselves through which we could address pertinent socio-economic and political issues affecting us as the youth.

What’s the one thing you hate about Thenx/directing/acting?

It can be very demanding when we hit a creativity block while in process, but somehow the work is always ready on time. There’s also the desire to tell your story in the best way possible in order for it to affect your audience in the most successful way – that’s why sometimes when an idea isn’t coming together it can be very frustrating.

Your last piece Kulneck was controversial, was that the intention?

Yes. Otherwise why are doing this? We need to remember though that it’s not just about controversy, the play was addressing some touchy issues about race, women, relationships, poverty and religion. These are things that everyone talks about and the play brought them to the surface, we weren’t trying to sugar-coat anything. We wanted to make people uncomfortable get them to deal with these issues. That’s the main function of art, to make us question life and the systems that govern us, as well as to get people talking and probing.

Can you tell us about this new genre you are pioneering?

It’s not really a new genre but more a hybrid of stand-up and sketch – it was meant for the show Kulneck which ran at POPArt Theatre. I was trying to package the show in a way that would slightly differ from the conventional methods we have seen with stand-up comedy performances. It’s interesting, however, that a lot of the audience felt like they hadn’t seen something like that before so maybe it’s a bit futuristic.

The arts scene in SA is struggling and artists aren’t taken seriously. How do we, as a country correct this?

It’s so disheartening to see artists battling similar challenges to those they fought against 20 years ago. I’m realising that artists need to start taking themselves more seriously. By that I mean, we need to stop doing work for free in the name of exposure. The industry needs to regulate who can act and who can’t by establishing whether people are qualified to be in this field. In the same way that I can’t wake up one day and decide to perform heart surgery on a patient as I’m not a qualified surgeon.

How do you choose to take up a role?

It needs to appeal to my aims as an artist and affirm what I stand for artistically, whilst adding value to my craft. At times, one ends up taking work for the sake of putting food on the table due to the increase in non-performers who get more work than qualified ones because they’re ‘cheaper’ or more popular on social media.

 

Going solo in the name of art

The second annual So Solo festival  is coming to the Wits theater this spring and it promises a line-up of thought provoking theater .

 

The So Solo festival of one person plays is coming to the Wits Theater for a month from September 11. A unique concept in theater, the festival will feature a solo actor performing a story in each show, accompanied only by lights, props and music.

ONE ACT AT A TIME: The festival of one person plays is returning for its second run at the Wits Theater. Photo: Provided

ONE ACT AT A TIME: The festival of one person plays is returning for its second run at the Wits Theater. Photo: Provided

 

“So Solo is an edgy festival and this years’ productions are works that push the boundaries of the art form further,” said festival director Gitanjali Pather.

 

16 plays written by diverse writers, directors and actors will be showcased over the month-long festival. Some of the artists featured are current Wits students including Kelly Eksteen, star of Kullid.  Eksteen says the experience of working physically alone has taught her the value of having other actors on stage supporting the storytelling process.

 

“I think that no matter whether you’re in an ensemble of 20 cast members or if you’re by yourself, it’s never about you,” she said.

 

Pather says she chose to target young talents who are creating work despite the obstacles they face.

Many graduates of the Wits School of Arts (WSOA) are producing their own work and this will be performed for audiences at the So Solo festival.  The likes of MoMo Matsunyane, the writer and director of this years commissioned piece, ‘Penny’ and Tony Miyambo who performs the award winning Kafka’s Ape will also make an appearance during the festival.

 

“I took two plays down to the national arts festival this year; Kafkas Ape and The Cenotaph of Dan Wa Moriri which was the commissioned play for the first ever So Solo festival last year. I was given the opportunity to tell stories that are close to my heart and received an amazing response for both pieces,” said Miyambo.

 

WITS SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: Tony Miyambo, one of this years featured alumni at the So Solo Festival. Photo: Provided

WITS SCHOOL OF ART GRADUATE: Tony Miyambo, one of this years featured WSOA alumni at the So Solo Festival. Photo: Provided

 

Having a space to perform is important for young people in the arts, according to  Pather. She said students get to “shape, and reshape their stories, hone their skills and understand that magical thing that happens between performer and the audience.”

 

Aside from the student participants, the festival also hosts well-known theater personalities like Carina Nel who will perform the critically acclaimed ‘Suster’ – a story about a woman who is diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder following her parents’ death.

 

Makhaola Siyanda Ndebele, the writer and performer of ‘Cantos of a life in exile’  deploys the South African performance genres of iiNgoma (healing rituals), iintsomi (storytelling) and IziBongo (praise poetry) in this tale about finding home. This autobiographical performance journey explores the complexities of identity faced  by a South African citizen exiled during apartheid.

 

Craig Morris’s hilarious delivery in the award winning  ‘Johnny Boskak is feeling funny’ is sure to leave the audience in stiches.  This spin-off to Greig Coetzee’s White men with weapons, is based on Johnny Boskak’s journey to find his place in the new South Africa. It’s a story about defying the odds at any means necessary with a comedic twist.

 

WELL KNOWN FACES: Some well known artists featured in last years festival. This year will also include a mix of familiar and new faces. Photo: Provided

THE KNOWN AND UNKNOWN: This year will  include a mix of familiar and new faces. Photo: Provided

 

“I created the So Solo season to celebrate the solo artist”

 

The works of captivating works of multi talented writers and actors like Philip M. Dikotla in ‘Jokes 4 sale’ , Billy Langa in ‘Ngwed1’ , Wiseman Mncube in ‘Giving birth to my father’ and Tefo Paya in ‘Morwa: the rising sun’,will ensure that any genre you crave will be satisfied.

 

Pather says, “more and more artists are using the solo performer vehicle to tell stories AND practice their craft in a way that makes it economically viable.” Performers agree saying that there’s no better way to advance ones career but through doing the work they love.

 

Book online at www.webtickets.co.za or purchase your tickets from box office. The ticket prices range from R70 to R85