2012 South African Theatre Retrospective: Dance and Physical Theatre

UBOM! Eastern Cape Drama Company presented a new work this year, a satirical romp entitled THE DOGS MUST BE CRAZY. Archly satirical, the show was based on a concept by Mike van Graan and delved into some of the pressing political issues that face post-apartheid South Africa. Rob Murray directed this maniacally gleeful and darkly comic work, which premiered at the Western Cape Schools Festival in February before a full run at the National Arts Festival.

Mathew Lewis (left) and Andrew Laubscher (right) in MAFEKING ROADWinner of a Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award for Physical Theatre in 2011, MAFEKING ROAD returned to South African stages in 2012. Director Tara Notcutt, along with cast members Andrew Laubscher and Mathew Lewis, reinvented the classic stories of Herman Charles Bosman using a vibrant comic book style of physicality to transform Bosman's prose into theatrical form for a new generation.

In a year where Magnet Theatre celebrated a quarter century of theatre-making, the company revived their memorable and evocative 2001 production, VOICES MADE NIGHT. Magnet Theatre describes the importance of the show in the context of their work as follows: 'VOICES MADE NIGHT reflects all of Magnet Theatre's orientations as a company - a focus on creative, innovative and sophisticated African theatre which engages with their present condition in southern Africa; a commitment to developing theatre that consistently challenges form, the roles of theatre and its reach; and the prioritising of the body and the physical image.' Based on Mia Couto's image rich stories, the piece examines the relationship between colonialism and de-colonisation, revealing insights into the challenges related to the transformation in post-colonial countries. Directed by Mark Fleishman, the company of the show at the National Arts Festival included Faniswa Yisa, Jennie Reznek, Dann-Jaques Mouton, Mfundo Tshazibane, Thando Doni, Chiminae Ball and Richard September.

THE EPICENE BUTCHERTo finish off this series of columns looking back at the theatre of 2012, I would like to mention a show that rather defies classification, but which was cited by several industry folk one of their favourite productions of the year: THE EPICENE BUTCHER AND OTHER TALES FOR CONSENTING ADULTS. Conceived by Gwydion Beynon and Jemma Kahn, with Kahn being directed by John Trengove in performance, the piece used the Japanese storytelling form of Kamishibai to relate a selection of other stories, including the titular tragedy of "The Epicene Butcher", a man who died because he ate what he loved. Tara Notcutt, the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Pink Couch, regarded this show as a standout among the many great productions she saw during the past year: 'It was funny, smart, very sexy, and just plain cool. This clever little show introduced audiences to the Japanese street theatre style of Kamishibai was unlike anything I've seen before, and I can't wait to see it again when it does the rounds next year.'

2013 is here: here's to a year of diverse and compelling theatre! Keep an eye out for our look at what will be on offer on our stages in the next season of South African dance and physical theatre.

Photo credits: Chris de Beer (MOFFIE), Aatish Ramkaran (THE EPICENE BUTCHER).

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David Fick Born and bred in South Africa, David has loved theatre since the day he set foot on stage in his preschool nativity play. He graduated with a Master of Arts (Theatre and Performance) degree from the University of Cape Town in 2005, having previously graduated from the same university with a First Class Honours in Drama in 2002. An ardent essayist, David won the Keswick Prize for Lucidity for his paper "Homosexual Representation in the Broadway Musical: the development of homosexual identities and relationships from PATIENCE to RENT". Currently, he teaches Dramatic Arts at a high school in Cape Town and also freelances as a theatremaker and performer.

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