Paper becomes a shrewd and incisive metaphor in the 11-minute epic Commission Continua.
Conceptualised by Tony Miyambo and Phala O. Phala and performed by Miyambo, the play traces the history of some of South Africa’s commissions of enquiry –The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Marikana Commission of Inquiry being two of the most infamous ones.
Miyambo plays the part of a dowdy, ineffectual office worker who, like SA’s own veneration of the historical archive, is somewhat obsessed with paper and what it represents.
“180million tons of paper used per year, R200million spent per commission. Yes, our inquiries are so important that we have to commission them. We record them and then we print them for our mental landfills and then we repeat the chorus of our traumas,” he says in a seemingly throw-away line early on.
If Commission Continua is slow to start it’s only because what Miyambo’s character builds up to is some of the most overwhelming and heart-breaking theatre across the Season.
Live looped audio mirrors the monotony of government inquiry – an endless and impersonal cycle of clearing throats and ‘yes chair, no chair’ answers – while Miyambo’s own performance, his embodiment of the extraordinary pain of seemingly ordinary people, cuts right through the bureaucracy of it all, rendering tangible the enduring traumas of the past and present.
“Where is the voice of the victim?” he asks, amidst a series of voices endlessly sounding out and crashing down all around us. “Ceasfire!” he screams, in an all-too-familiar register of fear and panic. Finally, as a photocopier drones on in the dark – capturing, documenting, archiving – we are left to wonder: How much more paper will we have to sift through?
CONCEPTUALISED BY | Tony Miyambo | Phala O. Phala
DRAMATURGY BY | Dominique Khayelihle Gumede
PERFORMED BY | Tony Miyambo
WRITER | Dave Mann
VIDEO ENGINEER & EDITOR | Noah Cohen
STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER | Nina Lieska