after Can Themba, Mothobi Mutloaste and Barney Simon adapted by Peter Brook.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ To 16 June 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 16 June 2.30pm.
Captioned 14 June.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 May.
Theatre of lightness and depth.
For half a century criticism and description of theatre has become more precise and scientific. References to ‘magic’ and ‘mystery’ will no longer do. Yet, for all the precision and explanation, there remains an incalculable quality. Why does one director’s attempt to incorporate a number of elements look lumpy and effortful, while another’s flows with grace and force?
Peter Brook’s co-adaptation of South African Can Themba’s story about a man who surprises his wife with a lover, and when the adulterer flees, half-dressed, keeps his suit, demanding the wife treat it with respect as if it were the man inside, ought to be awful. Especially now he’s added music.
The piece mixes intense realism, with silence and stares or eye-avoidance more expressive than long speeches, quick moments of physical theatre, and audience involvement – audience members invited to join an onstage party are brought back for the final applause (not a ‘curtain-call’ as there’s no curtain, or ‘final bow’ as there’s no bowing, applause being received with straight-backed dignity).
Themba’s story is set in Sophiatown, a creative if crime-ridden Black community destroyed in the 1960s to shift its people further from Johannesburg. An energetic community is represented in the trio of jazz musicians who hang around or join the action, and in the apt staging devices. A clothes-rail becomes a bus, on which workers sit. Or suggest sitting by hanging on the top rail, feet on the lower one.
Bright-coloured wooden chairs add vibrancy while the music replaces Mozart opera on a piano, in A Magic Flute, with Schubert on a piano-accordion. As the husband’s insistence slowly kills wife, the accordion playing Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’. Then his final state is commented on by Bach’s ‘Make thee Free My Heart from Sin’.
There’s also the insertion of anti-racist protest classic ‘Strange Fruit’ and a Tanzanian number, while the cast is so at home in every moment, they might be living the life as well as performing the role. Mysteriously, magically Brook’s company banish the paradox of the actor: the more intense the acting, the more intense, and multi-faceted, the life.
Cast: Rikki Henry, Nonhlanhia Kheswa, Jared McNeill, William Nadylam.
Musicians: Arthur Astier, Raphaël Chambouvet, David Dupuis.
Directors/Music: Peter Brook, Marie-Hélène Estienne, Franck Krawczyk.
Designer/Costume: Oria Puppo.
Lighting: Philippe Vialette.
Assistant director: Rikki Henry.