Performance Studies and Dramatic Writing lecturer Makhaola Siyanda Ndebele’s two productions have been nominated for a score of awards at the Naledi Theatre Awards. (more…)
A new theatre culture is being created at The Market Theatre. A culture that goes beyond the boundaries of the spoken word by using a collection of languages, performances and emotions.
Vumani Oedipus is a collaborative effort between the Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre in Johannesburg. The play is a reworking of the classic Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex into an African rendition. Directed by Wits School of Arts (WSOA) lecturer Dr Samuel Ravengai, the majority of the cast and crew are Wits students with two students from The Market Laboratory Drama School also included.
Friday night’s performance was nothing short of energetic and focused making it difficult to choose a single stand-out moment. Each action was met with an equal reaction that made the story flow effortlessly and the hour fly by quicker than one would have hoped.
Lucky Ndlovu (Edipha) and Nomfundo Shezi (Jocasta) are the striking lead pair whose interactions captivate the audience throughout the performance.
The theatre was filled with a diverse group of audience members who laughed, gasped and sympathised with the characters.
The play is performed in about 60 percent English and the remainder in a variety of Nguni languages such as isiZulu, Seswati, isiXhosa and Ndebele. Despite the variety of languages used in the play and the intentional abscence of subtitles or interpretation, it is simple to follow even if you only understand one of the languages used.
The performance relies far more on emotion and physical performance than the spoken word. The facial expressions from perfomers such as Sibusiso Mkhize (Kiliyoni) were more than enough to follow what is happening.
Although the story of Edipha was one of prophesised tragedy and the audience left the theatre feeling heart sore for the characters, there were a number of light-hearted moments. Fumani Moeketsi (Thilesi The Sangoma) was responsible for many of these moments with her witty retorts and fiesty attitude.
The performance flowed perfectly from beginning to end and it was a pleasure to watch young talent perform with such passion, energy and professionalism.
Vumani Oedipus is showing at The Market Theatre’s Barney Simon Theatre until Sunday, October 11.
Wits Theatre has collaborated in The Market Theatre for a play called Vumani Oedipus, opening in October.
Vumani Oedipus, a play by Wits School of Arts (WSOA), will be showing at The Market Theatre in October.
The collaboration “came about by default, it wasn’t planned” said director and WSOA lecturer Dr Samuel Ravengai. Due to a number of productions running simultaneously, there was a shortage of performers so Ravengai had the idea to approach The Market Laboratory Drama School, the training branch of The Market Theatre. “Three [The Market Laboratory students] got places, one of them has fallen out so I’m using two and the rest are from Wits Theatre”.
Vumani Oedipus is an “an Africanisation of the classic murder mystery”, the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex or Oedipus The King, according to the WSOA website. “The play is classified as a Greek play but if you look at the history of performance, the so-called Greek civilisation and it’s so called Greek plays are actually an off-shoot of African performances” said Ravengai.
Ravengai explained that his motivation for doing this play was to ground the work in an African context, saying that he was, “appropriating what was stolen or taken or appropriated from Africa and replanting it back into the African stories”.
Ravengai hopes the play will show “the possibility that South African theatre has, which is a celebration of our collective identities”. He added that, “It is possible to create a uniquely South African theatre that celebrates everybody in this kind of performance, which I think has not been done in many years at Wits and at The Market Theatre”.
The play strives to develop a new theatre culture that encourages transformation by incorporating a number of languages and traditions.
“For the first time at Wits and the first time at The Market Theatre we are going to do a play where English occupies about 60 to 65 percent of the linguistic content of the play and the rest of it will be Nguni languages, which is Zulu, Seswati, isiXhosa and Ndebele. I am not going to be using titles because theatre has its own language.”
Vumani Oedipus runs from 6 -11 October at the Barney Simon Theatre at The Market Theatre.
An old acquaintance barely seen since primary school days, in a chance meeting recently complained that our country had yet to produce “the great South African novel”. With the 2013 Mail and Guardian Literary Festival a few short hours away, his observation was an attractive alternative to the small talk gnawing for attention at the corners of our conversation.
Appalled and mystified in equal degrees at the valid line of enquiry, I asked him what he meant by the “great South African novel”? He fired off a series of answers whose sum total escapes the memory of a mind that was blind with excitement at the prospect of three days immersed in South Africa’s finest literary offerings.
The great novel, as Dickens, or perhaps Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, was to the British? There was sense of this in my acquaintance’s response. Nigerian-born literary scholar, Aghogho Akpome, in a panel discussion chaired by South African Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer about Chinua Achebe’s Man of the People, made a remark along these lines.
On the second day of the festival in an airy under-construction Market Theatre, he recalled that his English-teacher father would refuse to engage him in literary conversation until he had read Pride and Prejudice. Our reading culture as Africans, and the canons which we instinctively reference, are inherently Western. A moot point Akpome acknowledged. What the University of the Free State research associate was getting at however, was that there did not exist one African story or one way of telling it that was more valid than another, and that its formation could take any number of trajectories.
Gordimer herself could be said to have penned at least one the great South African novels. My acquaintance hazarded JM Coetzee or Antjie Krug as possibilities only to immediately reject them, saying the latter author was “too self-flagellating”. I thought of suggesting Njabulo Ndebele’s Fools or any works from the Sophiatown school of writers.
But after factoring in a few racial, proudly South African variables, and sensing that he was thinking of something more contemporary and light-hearted, I eventually suggested Chris van Wyk’s memoir Shirley, Goodness and Mercy. He had not read it but said he would. One might have also suggested the book by Gordimer and Akpome’s fellow panellist, Imraan Coovadia’s remarkable Institute of Taxi Poetry, which is about as South African as it gets.
The many possibilities created by the thought of “the great South African novel” beget an inevitable question, one that seemed a preoccupation of the festival as a whole if the theme, Chinua Achebe’s children: Africa’s suspended revolutions, is given due consideration.
What is the nature of the relationship between literature and society in societies on the brink of, or newly emergent from, revolution?
Chinua Achebe, the organisers seem to have been saying, had already written the great African novels. His choice as the spiritual conduit through which these questions and that of the continent’s “suspended revolutions” would be explored, then, set the scene for a confrontation: A joyful exorcism and harrowing incantation of the complexities of the times we live in. “[T]he fourth annual M&G Literary Festival aims to foster robust debate about political, social and literary revolution,” according to books editor at the Mail and Guardian Darryl Accone.
And the festival kicked-off on that urgent note with the presentation of newly installed Vice-Chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand Professor Adam Habib’s new book, South Africa’s Suspended Revoultion: Hopes and Prospects. In it, Habib suggests that “it is not the foibles or wisdom of our leaders” that will ultimately determine a prosperous future for the country. He advises rather, that it is imagination and commitment from the political elites and ordinary citizens that will forge a path to transformed society.
A score of other great South African publications and their authors were engaged on these and similar questions, with Achebe’s scorn for African leaders who have hijacked and short-circuited Africa’s revolutions as omniscient guide.
The great South African novel? Nadine Gordimer guessed the character of its author when she quoted Albert Camus: “The day I am no more than just a writer, no longer will I be a writer”.