Young talent soars in the Bay

RISING STARS: The five plays being staged as part of the Youth Theatre Project, an initiative of the Eastern Cape branch of the Performing Arts Network of SA, are, from left, 'Nimbandini'; 'Mopanja'; 'God is Watching You'; 'Michael'; and 'In the Shadow of the Rainbow'. Pictures: CHRIS GERTSCH
RISING STARS: The five plays being staged as part of the Youth Theatre Project, an initiative of the Eastern Cape branch of the Performing Arts Network of SA, are, from left, ‘Nimbandini’; ‘Mopanja’; ‘God is Watching You’; ‘Michael’; and ‘In the Shadow of the Rainbow’. Pictures: CHRIS GERTSCH

STAGE FLIGHT, by the Youth Theatre Project. Directed by Micayla Fillis, Litha Hewitt-Coleman, Miliswa Mbandazayo, Rachél Calitz and Lungi Lallie. Written by Lili Flax, Anne Greene, Olwethu Mdoda, Chantelle Whitehouse and Taryn Benade. At the Savoy Theatre until tomorrow night. Tickets at Computicket.

THE excitement was tangible as the crowd gathered at the Bay’s Savoy Theatre for the opening night of Stage Flight this week. This youth collaboration of five new short plays is a culmination of the Youth Theatre Project, an initiative of the Eastern Cape branch of the Performing Arts Network of South Africa (Pansaec).

Its chairman, David Limbert, had for years envisaged a theatre production created and produced entirely by young people. And, following eight months of workshopping and mentorship, five plays written by project participants were chosen to be staged and run by a team of now-proficient young theatre-makers.

Wednesday’s opening night began with the chilling drama, God is Watching You. The tension between the two characters mounted to an almost palpable level, enhanced by the lighting and just-noticeable ambience.

The symbolism exhibited by the set added to the richness of the subtext.

Wanie Daniels gave a noteworthy performance while the female role was heart-wrenchingly played by Kelly Nelson. Together, their effective use of pause and inflection did a beautiful script justice.

Mopanja, the second play, lightened the mood considerably. This farcical comedy, set in a run-down hospital, had the audience in stitches. The hilarious dialogue, bold characters and calamitous action was somewhat sitcom-esque.

Arthur Daniels gave a stand-out performance as the head nurse, well supported by Litha Hewitt-Coleman as the loopy medical examiner. The detailed set was superb, even featuring a revolving stage.

Nimbandini caught the audience slightly off-guard, as the script is almost entirely in isiXhosa. This tragic story of women abuse was exquisitely put across by the actors. The physicality in their characterisation stood out – Sisipho’s uncle, played by Thembelani Nunge, and Nopassage (Thethelwa Wellem) are both worthy of mention. The set was brilliantly simple and perfectly representative of the township environment.

The Shadow of the Rainbow  tells the story of Mandilake, a bright, underprivileged black student, played by Kopano Headbush, who earns a scholarship at a top university where racial tensions simmer.

The chemistry between Mandilake and Dominique (Sarah Morton) enthralled the audience. Space was used to good effect, accentuated by the use of light to isolate areas on stage. The play climaxes in a shocking physical theatre sequence.

The final play, Michael, ended the evening as powerfully as it began. This psychological thriller is staged in an almost dream-like setting and the simplistic use of sets, paired with elaborate lighting, creates a realm for the obsessive-compulsive Michael to fixate over the beautiful Lily.

Thando Hanise portrays Michael in a chillingly realistic way, and his controlled physicality is admirable. Caéla du Toit delivers her lyrical lines with stunning vocal clarity. The suspense culminates in a tragic and gut-wrenching physical theatre performance.

The mature performances by these young actors leaves one enriched and hungry for more. That all the plays were written and directed by people under the age of 25 is remarkable. At just R40 per ticket, Stage Flight is not to be missed.

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