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Friday, August 13, 2010


(Pic by Val Adamson: Busi Deyi & Silindile Ndlovu)

Exciting site-specific work by Musa Hlatshwayo for Stable Theatre. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Last night, the Stable Theatre hosted an exciting site-specific work designed and directed by Durban’s own acclaimed choreographer and dancer Musa Hlatshwayo.

Outside the loading bay for the theatre, we meet a dignified group of people involved in a quiet ceremony which involves a poem by Gcina Mhlophe. Behind them, screened visual images of an elephant mother and calf immediately set the scene for a tribute to the female genre. This is indeed what Ndlovukazi! is all about. The idea was formed on a recent visit to the Cameroons where Hlatshwayo was privileged to witness a rare visit from the Queen of the Cameroons who seldom makes public appearances. Her nobility and dignified sense of heritage moved him to tears and thus was born the idea to produce this work.

In partnership with the Stable Theatre, Musa Hlatshwayo and his Mhayise Productions have created a multidisciplinary site-specific theatre work that creatively celebrates the women of the Queendom of Azania. Ndlovukazi! takes its audience on a spiritual journey focusing on the four elements – water, fire, wind and earth and the capacity of women to rise above any tempests that beset them. It moves around various outdoor spaces of the Stable Theatre and its surrounding ring of beautiful Fever Trees before progressing into the revamped theatre itself – a transformed space which now sports comfortable chairs previously housed in the Playhouse Drama, courtesy of a donation from the Playhouse Theatre.

The production took shape through Musa Hlatshwayo’s profile message on Facebook inviting anyone interested to take part in this workshopped piece. This went on to attract chance Stable Theatre passers-by who were drawn to the activity. Open public workshops were held where attendees were privileged to be instructed by luminaries in their fields. Those finally selected were then encouraged to write their own poetry for inclusion in the show. Musa Hlatshwayo then took over, added dialogue as well as further poetry by Malika Ndlovu and Sonny Carroll, and fine-tuned the production into shape.

The result is a fascinating ongoing journey of poetry, music, dance and physical theatre as well as video and photography accompanied by African traditional snacks. There’s much use of green in the costuming to represent life as well as a plastic material adorned with strawberries. Strawberries are said to represent fertility and thereby womanhood.

The commanding central figure is the Sun Goddess played by Silindile Ndlovu with Busi Deyi regally representing the Queen. Other notable performances come from Nqobile Madlala for her poem Mr Gone as well as Sikelela Magxala, Njabulo Zukulu and S’phiwe Kunene. Groups included Ubuhle Be-Africa, Cato Manor Vibe!!, Omama bebandla Lamanazaetha, Ubuciko and Woodpecker Percussionists. However, as always, once Musa Hlatshwayo takes to the stage, he commands undivided attention through his controlled and focused performance.

While Ndlovukazi! is Musa Hlatshwayo’s second site-specific work – the first being presented at UKZN’s drama department – it’s certainly the first site-specific work of its kind for the Stable Theatre and I predict that it won’t be the last. Only a few of the 35 performers have been on a professional stage before and for the 22 technicians, all students of the Straight Success Studio, it is their first theatre work.

Ndlovukazi has gone a long way to elevating Stable Theatre’s profile and is a milestone in the ongoing undertaking to place the venue firmly back into the city’s performing arts scene. Forming part of Stable Theatre’s women’s month artistic calendar, Ndlovukazi lasts about 80 minutes and has a short run at Stable Theatre until August 15. There is parking within the venue.

Remember to take scarves and jackets as two-thirds of the show takes place in the open air. The last performance is scheduled for 18h00 (half an hour earlier than normal) at Warwick Avenue and seeks to cross-fade into the performance at the Stable Theatre at 18h30.

Bookings and enquiries through Bonang Shuping at 031 309 2513 or via email at during office hours. Tickets R35 (R25 students and pensioners) at the door. Special discounts for block bookings of more that 10. Seating is very limited and prior booking is strongly advised. – Caroline Smart