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Thursday, September 6, 2012


(Sbusiso Gantsa and Mxolisi Nkomonde)

Highlight of Siwela Sonke’s work to date. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre celebrates its 15th anniversary in this year of 2012 and Caesar, Interrupted (Qaphela Caesar) which forms part of this year’s Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience, marks a highlight of the company’s work to date.

Caesar, Interrupted is based on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The company is busy rehearsing when news arrives that the original production is not going to happen as much-needed funding has not come through. The dancer playing the role of Brutus (Mxolisi Nkomonde) is hardest hit and the rest of the company is despondent and de-motivated. However, in true theatre style, they set about downsizing the production.

The work takes a hard swipe at funding bodies, in particular the National Arts Council which has changed its policy of three-year company funding, leaving a number of South Africa’s major dance companies in a state of uncertainty as to their very future.

Although based in Cape Town, the company’s artistic director Jay Pather is still very much involved and he makes effective use of text, video, installation and dance in this riveting dance work.

An ironical aspect of Caesar, Interrupted are screened emails from Jay Pather (which he voices himself) explaining to the company that Caesar will have to be put on hold. The emails continue to bring more news of funding cuts. The signings of each devastating email with his encouraging comments offer a telling example of arts practitioners’ persistence to remain focused and positive in difficult times.

Mxolisi Nkomonde shines in this production, especially in what looks like a fairly hazardous section where he executes some complicated moves with his outer-trousers wrapped round his ankles! Equally good performances come from Sbusiso Gantsa, Sandile Mkhize and Neliswa Rushualang along with Thando Mbanjwa and Mandisa Ndlovu.

There are some beautiful sequences and effective costumes. I read the use of masks as artistes’ ability to hide their true feelings of disappointment and to soldier on, regardless. I also took the death of Brutus and the helpless rage of his companion to represent the demise of valuable arts bodies if financial support is not forthcoming. And then there are the welding helmets! Pather explains that these are a comment on resilience, reflecting the capacity of artistes to survive and weld together whatever positive aspects are available.

Jay Pather and Vaughn Sadie’s lighting design is very effective and the video imagery is by Dominique Jossie with additional footage supplied by FNB Dance Umbrella. At some stages, the imagery is played onto the floor which provides an impressive dimension to the work. The imagery includes a fascinating glimpse of Avon Productions 1950 film of Julius Caesar directed by David Bradley and starring a 27 year-old Charlton Heston! Other footage – filmed in black and white to match the Avon film – extend the process of the performance that is happening on stage.

Watch out for this dance work if it comes your way! For more information visit – Caroline Smart