Theatre review: Inxeba Lomphilisi -The wound of the healer

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
Tags: , , ,

 

First published in the Cape Times,  2 August 2010

 

Directors: Mandla Mbothwe and Faniswa Yisa
Cast: Faniswa Yisa, Asanda Rilityana, Thando Doni, Luvo Tamba, Thumeka Mzayiya
and Magnet Theatre Trainees Aphiwe Menziwa, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe, Thembekile Komani.  Movement Director: Jennie Reznek.  Choreographer: Ina Wichterich
Musical Director: Nolofefe Mtshabe.  Designer: Angela Nemov, assisted by Jennifer Bam
Lighting Designers: Craig Leo and Mark Fleishman.  Multimedia: Sanjin Muftic.
Translations: Thoko Ntshinga

The wound of the healer

 

At the Baxter until   ASTRID STARK reviews

 

Imagine a stretch along the highway were the souls of the undead wander in perpetual search of release from earth’s confining sorrow.   An earthbound female healer is consigned with the sacred, yet rather unfortunate, and certainly emotionally draining task of listening to the stories of these restless souls. Together with her helper, a man who searches among the living and the dead for his bride that never arrived, the healer must set the searching souls on a path of redemption. In the ghoulish mix you will meet spirit children who are searching for their parents’ graves so that they may join them in the big sleep, a man who refuses to accept that he is dead, and a woman mourning for her child.    This performance floods all five senses as it opens with a view of the N2 highway at nighttime.  Fresh mounds of soil with rough-edged handcrafted wooden crosses speak of the sorrowful events along the road.  You can actually smell the perfume of the soil and if you use your imagination you can feel the splinters of the wooden crosses dig into your palms as you shove it into the heart of the grave.

 The inside of the Flipside theatre is cold, really cold. They actually give out blankets as you walk in. But I would recommend that you take a beanie and a scarf to be sure.   On opening night the wind howled and whipped around the building which made it feel as if we were huddling next to the highway with the wind of speedy cars to chill us.  Add to this the zombie like ensemble of characters that dance and strut and fret out their final moments and you have a bit of Michael Jackson Thriller meets the Adams family on your hands. 

But it’s not really funny.  The theme of restless souls seeking redemption is ancient and enduring.   It is really tragic to see a man with his bride to be’s wedding dress in his hands weeping and searching and being singularly destroyed by his obsession with finding her.  We are all so interconnected and locked up in our relationships, and so very fragile, that when our reason for being is brutally ripped from our lives, we are left haunted.  Yet, this performance questions whether those we died before us are actually trying to communicate with us. It is not as if they died from a long suffering disease. Their deaths were sudden, unexpected, often brutal, and they are still reeling in shock.  Do our souls hang around or do they move on?

This production feels like a sequel to the equally moving The Grave of the Man is on the Side of the Road by the Magnet theatre. But it has progressed and it feels bigger and busier.  The stage design is whacky and very creepy. There is, what appears to be an animal hide, but of a rather impossibly large animal, stretched taut as a backdrop.  Figures, faces and hands are pressed against this from behind and it creates a kind of Rodin’s Gates of Hell effect.  It is a rendition of all the lost souls trap between the thin membrane that separates live and death. The children searching for their parents feels particularly haunting to me as I have a recurring dream of dead children trapped in a roof reaching out to me.  It is the very observant Carl Jung that said, ‘An unexamined dream is like an unopened letter’. And so the we go on and we search and we do what we do with frogs; we dissect them and inspect them.  We have so little grasp of the full scale of the universe out there.  Anything really is possible.  Says the director of the play, Mandla Mbothwe, “Without the stories of the ‘disappeared’ we are not whole.  Without their stories our spiritual and traditional being is empty. … The play takes our dreamtime and our real time and mashes them up in violent car crashes and brutal endings along a road until you don’t really know what is real and what has gone before. It is story of redemption, hope, love and above all the vulnerability of the human body and our search for release.  Sanjin Muftic again provides the haunting multimedia imagery projected on the screen which adds to the otherworldly quality of the production.

 

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