African premiere of Save the Pedestals

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Save the Pedestals, a unique, international, artistic collaboration between the Baxter Theatre Centre, Handspring Puppet Company and Halle Puppet Theatre, makes its African debut at the Baxter Flipside, for four performances only, from 28 to 30 March, at 20:00 with a matinee on Saturday, 30 March at 16:00. This follows its hugely successful world premiere in Halle, Germany, last year.

Two puppets in Save the pedestals. Four performances only of Save the Pedestals at the Baxter, from 28 to 30 March. Pic by Falk Wenzel.
Two puppets in Save the pedestals. Four performances only of Save the Pedestals at the Baxter, from 28 to 30 March. Pic by Falk Wenzel.

The acclaimed South African creative team behind the production have combined their collective skills to bring to life the narrative, which is based on writer Ivan Vladislaviæ’s short story, under the direction of choreographer and director, Robin Orlyn and featuring puppets by the Tony-Award-winning Handspring Puppet Company, led by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones.

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The cast of five is made up of puppeteers Mmakgosi Tsogang Kgabi (Botswana and SA), Lambert Mousseka Ntumba (DRC) and Franziska Rattay, Ivana Sajevic, and Nico Parisius (from Halle Puppet Theatre company). Torsten Mass is responsible for the idea, concept and co-ordination, dramaturgy and play development is by Francesca Spinazzi and Andreas Hillger, with German translation by Thomas Brückner.

The iconoclastic work, featuring Handspring’s giant colourful puppets, is filled with slapstick humour as it pokes fun at heroes that have fallen from grace. It follows the adventures of two struggle comrades, Comrade A and Ma Z, who find themselves in a world of public monuments that have passed their sell-by dates.

They wander around Johannesburg, sharing their recent dreams as they contemplate the half-life and the disappearance of historical monuments. Ma Z’s journey is grounded in and motivated by dreams where monuments recur – in her sleep, she sees a glass pedestal in which, like bones in a casket, are the names of the children of the statue. Comrade A, on the other hand, imagines that at midnight the statues climb down from their pedestals and go in search of better prospects.

Cast of Save the Pedestals. Pic by Falk Wenzel.
Cast of Save the Pedestals. Pic by Falk Wenzel.

The work is described as a poetic-political discourse that encompasses both the fall of Saddam Hussein’s and South African monuments (such as the Cecil John Rhodes one at UCT), as well as the rise of Lenin monuments. The title is derived from a saying by Polish writer and poet Stanislaw Lec, “When destroying monuments, save the pedestals.”

“The idea behind this production of Save the Pedestals, is to bring together the best German puppet theatre with the best puppet theatre from African countries,” explains Torsten Mass. “The performance has its finger on the pulse from a historical perspective and simultaneously addresses and encourages discussion around this global problem, in an interesting and provocative manner. Vladislavic’s story, at its heart, is about how we deal with monuments that have been left behind by political change and we are, therefore, resigned to confiscate them and they end up being nothing more than rubbish heaps of concrete.”

Renowned author and writer, Vladislaviæ has long been concerned with the life and death of statues and memorials, going back to stories like We Came to the Monument (1989) and Propaganda by Monuments (1996). His latest book, The Distance, was launched, earlier this year, to great success.

 

Cast of Save the Pedestals. Pic by Falk Wenzel.
Cast of Save the Pedestals. Pic by Falk Wenzel.

In 2011, along with David Goldblatt, he received the Kraszna-Krausz Award for best photography book. His work has also won the Sunday Times Fiction Prize, the Alan Paton Award, the University of Johannesburg Prize and Yale University’s Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction. He is a distinguished professor in the Creative Writing Department at Wits University.

 

SA-born, Berlin-based Robyn Orlin has been lauded for her choreography and contribution to the arts by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009 who made her a Knight of the French National Order of Merit. She is widely regarded as one of South Africa’s most controversial and provocative choreographers and performance artists, redefining both forms of the art in the country through her involvement in the field over the past 20 years. She has worked in diverse media, including television, film, theatre, dance and opera as a choreographer, producer, dancer and teacher.

Orlin’s many accolades include three AA Vita Awards for choreography; a British Council Scholarship; a Foundation of the Creative Arts grant; an FNB Vita Award for the best choreographer; the Jan Faber Award for the most subversive choreography in 2000; and the British Theatre’s Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance in 2003.

Handspring Puppet Company has become one of the leading exponents of the genre, since it was founded in 1981, under the leadership of artistic director Adrian Kohler and executive producer Basil Jones. The company, whose work has been presented in more than 30 countries around the world, provides an artistic home and professional base for a core group of performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians.

Their many awards include the Naledi Executive Directors Award for the international hit production Warhorse; a Fleur du Cap Theatre Award for Best Puppetry Design for Ouroboros; Best Design at the Toronto Theatre Critics Circle Awards; a DORA Award for outstanding costume design, puppet design, fabrication and direction to Adrian Kohler with Basil Jones.

The Halle Puppet Theatre, under the artistic directorship of Christoph Werner, is the only puppet theatre ensemble of its kind in German-speaking counties that performs shows predominantly aimed at adult audiences. The company, well-known for their international co-operations and collaborations, is based in the town of Halle (located in the middle of Germany, in the former eastern part) and is renowned for its cultural landscape. The production of Save the Pedestals is made possible by the TURN Fund of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.

Save the Pedestals runs at the Baxter Flipside from 28 to 30 March. Booking is through Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at www.webtickets.co.za or from Pick n Pay stores. For discounted school or group block bookings, fundraisers or charities, contact Sharon Ward on 021 680 3962 or e-mail sharon.ward@uct.ac.za or Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or e-mail her at carmen.kearns@uct.ac.za

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