TO SIT… TO HOLD… O ITIBETSE:- ALLOW, TABA DI MATLHONG… GO THATA BANNA; THE MOMENT. VUMA – NOTHINGNESS… WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS…
Few people can resist the almost inherent urge to start moving when a good bit of music comes on. How strange it is, then – following the instantly recognisable notes of Mandoza’s ‘Nkalakatha’ –to be confronted with a cast of performers who refuse to move at all.
Devised and performed by Faith Tshabalala, Bongile Lecoge-Zulu, Phillip Dikotla, and Themba Dredz Mbuli, to sit… to hold… o itibetse:- allow, taba di matlhong… go thata banna; the moment. Vuma – nothingness… when all else fails… (an energetic title indicative of the stop-start nature of the performance itself) is a brilliant example of the ‘anti-epic.’
As the performers take to the stage, one at a time, before doing absolutely nothing at all, it's interesting to witness how the focus can shift towards those watching the show. A few coughs here and there, some self-conscious giggles, but not a single call for action from any one of us seated in the audience. Despite the non-performance we continue to sit in silence, only watching and waiting.
The performance is both a humorous take on the structure of the theatrical epic and a shrewd comment on audience-performer relationships. Here we have comedians, musicians, dancers, and actors – masters of their crafts who are refusing to do what we are expecting them to do.Still, even the absence of performance is performance, and the cast of this particular show had the audience on the edge of its seats at the simple raising of an eyebrow, or the clearing of a throat.
Finally, there is something to be said about the use of the song itself – that infamous Mandoza track that became synonymous with South Africa’s rainbow nation euphoria. Because what do we do, exactly, when the post-apartheid after-party finally comes to an end and we all stop dancing?
DEVISED AND PERFORMED BY | Faith Tshabalala | Bongile Lecoge-Zulu | Phillip Dikotla | Themba Dredz Mbuli
MUSIC | Nkalakatha by Mandoza
WRITER | Dave Mann
VIDEO ENGINEER & EDITOR | Noah Cohen
STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER | Nina Lieska