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Thursday, July 23, 2009


Pic: Musa Hlatshwayo with Phumzile Masina (left) and Busi Deyi (right)

Musa Hlatshwayo’s latest creation is a powerful and moving work, beautifully lit and staged. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Acclaimed award-winning choreographer and dancer Musa Hlatshwayo is one of Durban’s performing arts luminaries. His recent work commitments have taken him further afield in Africa as well as to Europe and America.

Thankfully, for Durban dance lovers, he’s back home for a time and presenting his latest production Moses at the Square Space Theatre for a short season. The choreopoem (dance set to poetry with a dramatic element) was inspired by former president Thabo Mbeki’s I am an African and we hear this poem alongside Lebo Mashile’s The Ancient Ones spoken by Musa Hlatshwayo and Ingrid Jonker’s The Child Who Was Shot Dead by the Soldiers in Nyanga spoken by Phumzile Masina.

With production design by Wesley Maherry and featuring the photography of Val Adamson, the work is described as exploring the politics of identity post former President Thabo Mbeki’s I am an African era. Moses follows a socio-political dream that unfolds into an experience led by two youngsters whose journey leads them to challenges that rob them of their youth.

With Musa Hlatshwayo himself playing the dominant figure, the youngsters are performed by Ngcebo Nzama and Sikelela Magxala. The other two members are Phumzile Masina and Busi Deyi – making up a very good five-member cast. Their strong standard of emotional presentation helps audiences discover the underlying themes and moods of the piece as the characters move towards an unknown future. There were some highly amusing moments as they gather together for a series of “family portraits”.

Moses is a very powerful and moving work, beautifully lit and staged. The door in the back wall is used to ultimate effect, often swinging open to reveal characters in back-lit silhouette.

The work is significant for its use of barrier tape - lots of it. Even appearing as a head-dress and tight-fitting tops. It’s the kind of red/white barrier used to mark off accident or risk areas where it usually represents restriction, warning or danger. However, if one looks beyond the barrier tape surrounding a construction site, for example, it shields something in the process of development, so it could represent a temporary lack of access to a new creation. In this work, the sheer practicality of working in a space which eventually becomes criss-crossed in a seemingly never-ending network of tape, adds its own danger. A wrongly-executed step and a dancer could become seriously off-balance.

Then there are boots. Big solid, clumpy army boots, the kind worn by the military or those in security companies – even hikers. They can be associated with force or oppressive power – or else simply with comfort for long hikes and protection of the feet. They also create good percussive sound for dance.

Music is by Miriam Makeba, Jurgen Bräuninger, Brice Wassy, Amampondo and Fausto Romitelli. The background music behind the poetry needs to be more sensitively adjusted to accommodate the human voice, particularly for the rendering of the Jonker poem, as the words are as critical as the choreography.

Background sound effects play a strong role in understanding this piece, as it moves from the birdsong of rural areas to the confusing tumult of the city, the loud brash sounds of military action or community uprising, and then back to the gentleness of the natural environment.

Moses runs at the Square Space Theatre until July 26 at 19h00 (Sunday at 18h00) The show runs for approximately seventy minutes without an interval. Tickets at the door R60 (R40 students and pensioners). Prior booking is highly recommended and block bookings of ten and above get special discounts.

For bookings and enquiries, contact Claudette Wagner on 031 260 3133 or This is a family show and thus no age restriction applies. – Caroline Smart