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Thursday, July 9, 2009


Exceptional performances in production written and directed by Standard Bank Young Artist Award Winner for Drama. (Review by Caroline Smart)

This year’s winner of the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Drama, Ntshieng Mokgoro is blessed with a splendid cast in The Olive Tree, a work which she wrote and directed. Her mentor director was Clare Stopford, the choreography is by Portia Mashego and lighting design by Nomvula Molepo.

Warona Seane as Makosi, the mother; Ferry Jele as Babylon, the ghost of her schoolgirl daughter, Khutjo Mmola as her granddaughter Naledi and Tsholofelo Motsikoe as the Spirit of the Tree give exceptional performances in this play which is described as a tale of female spiritual damage and rebirth. In less skilful hands the amount of anger and forceful argument required from the script could become wearying, but they keep the energy intense which maintains it as riveting drama.

Set and costume designer Sasha Ehlers has created a towering structure of crisscrossing pieces of wood hung with strands of rope and string as well as scraps of fabric to give it a decaying feel. There is sufficient space inside it to allow the spirit of the tree to hang, climb or simply hover in the “branches”.

The programme notes indicate that, through theatre, Ntshieng Mokgoro aims to “heal a terrible damage that women have suffered and have passed on to each other generation after generation. At the same time, she strives to rediscover evidence of a fine and rich culture with which to portray the journey and which, hopefully, will sustain us into the future.”

The Olive Tree is about four generations of women who hate themselves: the grandmother, the mother, the daughter and her child. There are dark secrets, painful memories, cries of despair to the ancestors and the determination of the young woman to live her life freely in a modern society. All the while the spirit of the tree urges, cajoles, berates and gentles. When the time is ripe for the cleansing of the mother’s troubled soul, the spirit says firmly: “Now let’s do this properly” and starts setting out the correct props for the appropriate ritual.

This is indeed a beautiful and compelling piece of theatre – Caroline Smart