Plunge Avatar, written and directed by Sylvaine Strike, is a beautiful and devastating bit of theatre.
Performed by Calvin Ratladi and Phumlani Mndebele and choreographed by David April, the performance sees two characters drenched in a deep blue light swimming, floating, flying, falling, dreaming, and sinking. Ratladi assumes the role of the yearning diver and the perpetual dreamer, while Mndebele is the avatar – the persona, the imagined body, the incarnation of desire.
A measured and surreal choreographic sequence opens the performance, a slow wading into the dreamscape. There is a softness here and a perpetual sense of movement, right down to the slow shimmering of their costumes, even in stillness.
Later, we hear Ratladi’s monologue. “I imagine the open air, its flying fish, the sun piercing through the blue,” he says as we watch Mndebele’s mercurial movements under a single spotlight. Though his feet remain firmly planted on the stage throughout, Mndebele manages to leap, dive, descend, and float. It is a sequence that is at once beautiful and catastrophic, airless and overwhelming. It is enormous and full of hope.
And how to emerge from an underwater epic such as this? As Ratladi and Mndebele do: Dreamer and avatar moving together, slowly and deliberately, towards the surface.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY | Sylvaine Strike
CHOREOGRAPHED BY | David April
PERFORMED BY | Phumlani Mndebele | Calvin Ratladi
MUSIC | Villa Aurora and Stalker by Alva Notto | Quiet Music by Nico Muhly
COSTUMES BY | The Dance Boutique
WRITER | Dave Mann
VIDEO ENGINEER & EDITOR | Noah Cohen
STILLS PHOTOGRAPHER | Nina Lieska