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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

NAF: RED SOIL/BROWN SOIL


(Livia Hiselius & Billy Langa. Pic by Mark Wessels)

Langa and Hiselius immediately endear themselves to the audience by their energy and sincerity. (Review by Caroline Smart)

Presented by Theatreduo, Ragni Halle and Livia Hiselius on the 2019 National Arts Festival, Red Soil/Brown Soil is an intriguing two-hander performed by Billy Langa and Livia Hiselius. It is supported by the Arts and Culture Trust and Kulturr├ądet, Arts Council Norway.

The production looks at the question “What do people feel when they walk on the land they own? What do they feel if they don’t own it? Owning land is not only economic, it can be from a spiritual point of view, too.”

The stage is set with a selection of jointed pieces of multi-coloured wood creating separate structures of varying shapes and sizes which in turn are moved around and used to represent buildings, mountains or windows.

Langa and Hiselius immediately endear themselves to the audience by their energy and sincerity. The structures contain a variety of objects which are described as their most treasured possessions – although some are explained to be not so treasured. These are given to audience members to hold during the performance. They range from a love letter, a hand puppet, a broken piece of wood or a pill. I was asked to hold a lipstick and a fold-up walking stick.

Two major props are skulls and horns of antelopes – maybe Springboks – which the actors don and become animals. One skull features in a sequence with a figure of a human as they negotiate their way over mountains together.

Using much physical theatre and humour, they explain their origins and growing up experiences. Both characters had policemen as fathers and the script looks at the different lives and challenges of these two policemen at their times in European and South African history.

While this was an entertaining piece to watch, I felt that the message wasn’t delivered strongly enough. While the articles given to audience were done so respectfully, they were just collected randomly in a box. Maybe mixing them up and placing them in different spaces would have given a better idea of the movement of land ownership or placement. – Caroline Smart