Theatre review: !Aïa from cave to sky.

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

The self reconsidered.

The latest project by Théâtre Taliipot, who produced Mâ Ravan in 2009, is a provocative mime, theatre, and dance performance. The three South African and Creole actors take us on a powerful journey which explores the relationship between man and nature, man’s behavioral psychology, and our continual search for meaning. 

The set design consists of an enormous white screen placed at the back of the stage. A powerful light cast strong shadows against it, and the screen becomes a second performance, mimicking and distorting the action in the foreground; to great effect. It is an abstract piece which lends itself to many interpretations. Depending on your background, culture, and even gender; you’re likely to find your own meaning in this heavily symbolic piece. It is layered with multiple themes such as man’s eternal struggle to belong, our existentialist angst and the continual push and pull of the oppressor and the subjugated.

!Aïa is a San name which means ‘a special state of being’. The piece greatly explores the origins and future of mankind through the journey of the San. One interpretation is that Thierry Moucazambo’s character is from a modern era. He has a funky afro, wears a white suit, sunglasses, and he has a mobile phone. He encounters Themba Mbuli and Isaac Rakotsoane’s  ancient characters that seem to be on a journey of self-discovery and rebirth. They are often in conflict as they grapple with their differences. The three actors dance around each other and immerse themselves into various cleansing and healing rituals, through which each character, at the end of the performance, seem to find a comfortable space to continue living, or dying, in. Mbuli and Rakotsoane are both phenomenal dancers. Their style is a blend of contemporary and traditional dance. They use their lithe bodies to describe their various journeys to the tune of music which has been inspired by traditional African songs, infused with compositions by Mozart, and electronic music. All three actors play a variety of musical instruments with great dexterity. The result is an ambient, mesmerising and dreamlike production.

The idea of this production was born in South Africa on a specific site, classified by UNESCO, considered to be one of the cradles of humanity. The artistic team first worked with scientists, artists and traditional healers visiting places where, according to the directors, ‘one can still feel and see the tracks of the San people, and the root of the humankind tree’. They then worked in Réunion Island and returned to South Africa to work at the Nirox Foundation, in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind and finally at Artscape where they have been rehearsing for the past three months. !AÏA is the culmination of  all this research.   Therefore, one of the strongest themes threading through this unusual and moving piece, is man’s disengagement with nature and our search for identity. The characters beautifully illustrate, through dance and music, their pain and bewilderment and eventually their illumination.

Even though it is a rather abstract performance piece, the direction feels strong, and the underlying themes were clearly well-researched and enacted with careful consideration.  Good provocative theatre should make you reconsider yourself and your place in this world and !AÏA did precisely that for me. After the performance my mind kept on wandering back to the surreal landscapes and scenes and the various meanings of the rituals depicted.

!AÏA FROM CAVE TO SKY. Choreography, direction and script by Philippe Pelen Baldini, Assistant in South Africa:Themba Mbuli.  Artistic Direction by Philippe Pelen Baldini and Thierry Moucazambo. Sound Design by Phil Thurston. Music Composed by Phil Thurston, Isaac Rakotsoane and Thierry Moucazambo. With Themba Mbuli, Isaac Rakotsoane and Thierry Moucazambo. Artscape Arena Theatre at 7h30PM @ASTRID STARK reviews, First published in Cape Times

It is a beautiful and inspirational piece not to be missed.


* Tickets are R80. To book, call Artscape-Dial-a Seat  on 021 421 7695, or 0861 915 8000 or by visiting or call computicket on 0861 915 8000.


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