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Friday, January 9, 2009


BAT Centre buzzes as pre-show festivities launch 2009 festival of one and two-handed theatre pieces. (Review by Shika Budhoo)

The Bat Centre was buzzing as pre-show festivities saw patrons of the Opening of Musho! Festival 2009 greeted by PANSA (Performing Arts Network of South Africa) committee members. The function included a complimentary drink on entrance and socializing as the warm-up that produced an avid audience for the introduction to the Musho Festival presented by Themi Venturas, on behalf of PANSA.

A compelling speaker, Venturas welcomed all to the opening of the annual festival, before informing the audience as to the goings-on of the festival which is to run until the January 18. There are 13 shows in the festival - all on a variety of subject matter and offering a variety of talent – to be presented over the next nine days.

There are a couple of workshops – one especially for women on January 10 at 12h00 at the Catalina Theatre and the next on January 12 from 10h00 until 16h00, which include physical theatre and clowning technique. These workshops are for performers (and others) who wish to learn of techniques that may enhance their own unique performance styles.

The sad announcement of the closure of the Kwasuka Theatre was a melancholic moment at the loss of potential theatre pleasure this venue may have provided, given the extended opportunity. The introduction was personally delivered and gave the Festival Highlights that are to follow over the next few days, which, from the opening show, Rain, promises an interesting experience at this year’s Musho! Festival. Make sure you catch a glimpse of this interesting array of talent and pure theatrical entertainment.

A mention of the sponsors - National Arts Council of South Africa; Africalia, Belgium; Department of Arts Culture and Tourism; Bartel Arts Trust; Embassy of Israel, Pretoria; and Tataram, South Africa Israel Fund - and we went straight into the first show of the Festival.

Rain is performed by Mpume Mthombeni and directed by Gisele Turner and written by Mpume Mthombeni, Sazi Dlamini, Wendy Nell and Gisele Turner.

“Rain was once a beautiful woman who lived long ago in the sky. For a girdle she wore a rainbow…” so begins this fascinating myth based on an ancient San Story. Rain tells the story of a community of “good and bad people”, who fear the sight of a rainbow, after many people were once struck down by lightning. The daughter of Rain, Nomvelo, is a main narrator to the adventure that deals with what happens when Rain marries Flame and they have three beautiful daughters and one son.

After cravings to visit earth by all their daughters, Rain and Flame allow their children to cross the divide between earth and sky and explore the earth world. After many meetings of earthly creatures of all kinds; tragedy, love, hatred, vindictiveness and sorrow ensue … this results in the reason for the village people’s fear at the sight of a rainbow. A rainbow, which to many these days is a beautiful sight to behold … in this play is a sign of terror. If you cannot possibly imagine how the sight of - ‘red and orange and yellow and green, blue and indigo, just as violet and you get’ - the seven colours of the rainbow can be a source of fear and pain, be sure to catch Rain, at the Bat Hall Theatre on January 9 at 18h00.

The play explores various theatrical techniques, including storytelling, puppetry, song, dance and pure physical expression across the language barrier, due to pure encapsulating talent that is presented by Mpume Mthombeni. A perfect choice to launch this year’s Musho! Festival, which evidently offers a ‘new type of play’ list included in the festival … very refreshing!

Mthombeni morphs from character to song to dance to gesture. She propels the story into a spellbinding narrative that is simple in action but complicated and skilled in performance. The transition from character to character was so precise that I never felt confused about the speaker and the story, whether it was delivered in song, dance, gesture or difference in language. I specifically enjoyed the communication between human, mythical and earthly creatures of all sizes and kinds. Apart from precise character and effective communication of the story in many voices and levels of communication, Mthombeni has a singing voice that allows you to travel within her singing journey … I may not have understood the language in which she sang at times but the journey was triumphant and recognized. With no set and minimal props - an array of African musical instruments, a basket of puppets, a fabric rainbow streamer and a wooden box - magic was created!

Mthombeni took her audience on a journey that received long applause once it was over. The imperative is then placed on the audience to make of the story what they will, with large markers pointing the way to understanding the complex boundaries and liberties this earthly planet and all its lifestyles have on offer to us.

Well done to a great opening night of Musho! Festival which, from the opening show, evidently promises a quality experience at Musho! 2009! Be there! - Shika Budhoo