Antigone (not quite/quiet) explores tragedy at the Baxter

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Antigone (not quite/quiet), directed by Mark Fleishman, explores the concept of ‘tragedy’ at the Baxter, this September for a short season.

The cast of Antigone (not quite/quiet) at the Baxter. Photo by Mark Wessels
The cast of Antigone (not quite/quiet) at the Baxter. Photo by Mark Wessels

Antigone (not quite/quiet), directed by Mark Fleishman, is the first production – in a series of four – by UCT’s Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies and Magnet Theatre. It explores the concept of ‘tragedy and runs for a short season only, at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from 18 to 28 September.

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At the beginning of 2019, the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies (CTDPS) – previously the Drama Department and the School of Dance – embarked on an exciting five-year research project on Re-imagining Tragedy from Africa and the Global South (RETAGS). Led by Fleishman and Mandla Mbothwe, the project is made possible through generous funding by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Motlaji Ditola in Antigone (not quite quiet), pic by Mark Wessels.
Motlaji Ditola in Antigone (not quite quiet), pic by Mark Wessels.

Part of the project involves the making and creation of four new ‘tragedies’ with partners Magnet Theatre and the Baxter Theatre Centre.

Subtitled Ninganiki Okungcwele Ezinjeni which is isiXhosa for “Give not unto dogs sacred things”, Antigone (not quite/quiet), is not a production of Sophocles’ Antigone, but rather a series of responses to the original play. “It engages with the concept of the aftermath: the tragedy of our particular aftermath in post-1994 South Africa and the aftermath of tragedy as a form,” explains Fleishman.

He works closely with artists Neo Muyanga, Jennie Reznek, Faniswa Yisa, Craig Leo, Ina Wichterich and Mandisa Vundla for creative input. Performers are drawn from the CTDPS postgraduate cohort and trainees at Magnet Theatre, who were recently seen on the main festival at the National Arts Festival in Makanda (Grahamstown), in G7: Okwe-Bokhwe, directed by Mandla Mbothwe. They are led by Jennie Reznek with Abigail Mei, Balindile ka Ngcobo, Carlo Daniels, Jason Jacobs, Luxolo Mboso, Kanya Viljoen, Motlatji Mjamba, Sityhilelo Makupula, Sivenathi Macibela, Sive Gubangxa, Siyavuya Gqumehlo, Sizwe Lubengu and Yvonne Msebenzi.

Fleishman continues, “The broader research project proposes to take the concept of ‘tragedy’ – from the very beginnings of theatre in its European manifestation – and to reimagine it from a perspective in Africa, that is, at once, directed at the complex challenges of our global postcolonial present and towards our possible futures.”

The research is based on a recognition of the numerous adaptations and staging of ancient tragedies by major writers and theatre-makers across the African continent. From Wole Soyinka, Ola Rotimi, Femi Osofisan (Nigeria), J.P. Clark, Efua Sutherland, Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana), Ebrahim Husssein (Tanzania), Sylvain Bemba (Congo Brazzaville), Saad Ardash (Egypt), to numerous others; Athol Fugard (South Africa) and Trinidad Morgades (Equatorial Guinea). The Afro-diaspora includes Aimé Césaire (Martinique), Félix Morisseau-Leroy (Haiti), Kamau Brathwaite (Barbados) and Derek Walcott (St Lucia).

The project builds on Fleishman’s lengthy experience with tragedy in the theatre and in Africa. He has, in the past, created two significant works based on tragic sources. The first was a version of Medea (1994), at the point when South Africa was moving from a system of apartheid, into a new dispensation. The second was a version of the Orestes myth, titled In the City of Paradise (1998), in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process a few years later. The latter work was re-staged in 2015 with a new generation of young performers responding to the consequences of the policy of reconciliation proposed by the Mandela government post-1994.

The Re-imagining Tragedy from Africa and the Global South (RETAGS) project is also inspired by the concept of African Tragedy as outlined by Soyinka for example in his essay from the 1960s, ‘The Fourth Stage’, where he states that “there is something about these plays and their playing that appeals to African theatre-makers, performers and audiences”. It is further inspired by a reading of the recent work of David Scott and of Hans-Thies Lehmann.

The research project will create the space for an extended interrogation of this vast body of work produced in the theatres of Africa.

Antigone (not quite/quiet) previews on 18 September, opens on 19 September and runs for a limited season, at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, until 28 September. Performances are at 19:30 with Saturday matinees at 15:00.

Ticket prices range from 100 to R150 and students and scholars pay R50 for matinees and R70 for evening performances.

Booking is through Webtickets or Pick n Pay stores. For discounted block or school bookings, contact Leon van Zyl on 021 680 3973, e-mail leon.vanzyl@uct.ac.za or Nomsa Mbothwe at 021 448 3436, e-mail nomsa@magnettheatre.co.za

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