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.
POWER HUNGRY: Edipha (Lucky Ndlovu) kneels in front of three of the seven imbongis and Jocasta (Nomfundo Shezi) during the performance of Vumani Oedipus at The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara
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.
TRAGEDY: From front, Edipha (Lucky Ndlovu) is helped up by the court attendant (Sandile Mazibuko) while Kiliyoni (Sibusiso Mkize) watches during the performance of Vumani Oedipus at The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara
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.
PLAYING AROUND: Director Dr Samuel Ravengai (far left) makes a joke while directing cast members Sibusiso Mkhize, Nomfundo Shezi and Lucky Ndlovu (left to right) during a photoshoot for Vumani Oedipus, a collaborative production between Wits Theatre and The Market Theatre. Photo: Samantha Camara
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.