Belinda Henwood in “One Man, One Light” (Pic: Val Adamson)

KZN on the Edge: Fresh and new

by Mduduzi Mtshali

From start to finish I was on the edge of my seat.

One man, one light directed and choreographed by David Gouldie with lighting designed by Micheal Taylor-Broderick and performed by Belinda Henwood. This work is inspired by the Italian La Liena catoon series.

A white man bursts into the theatre foyer wearing a black suite covered in pin on badges, a white shirt, black hat and black shoes. He encourages audiences to take their seats. He speaks about how awful a dancer he is, shining his torch into the audience who are entering the auditorium.

On stage there is a coloured woman (Henwood) wearing a black and white clown suit and a bowler hat, sitting on the chair playing an accordian. A big square is marked on the floor demarcating the performance area. Set in the square is an umbrella and two sticks.

Why do we need so many lights if one light can do the work?

To quote the programme note: “In the right light at the right time, everything is extraordinary” (Aaron Rose). This is a playful romp between the medium of light and the performer, inspired by the Italian La Linea cartoon series. One man, one light explores and showcases the versatility of a single light source through its interaction with a solitary performer. Her movements are influenced by mime and clowning and she both manipulates and is manipulated by the light source that acts as her partner in performance. She creates a world exclusively of her own making… This work is nothing short of magic.

If we allow our imagination the freedom and license to run wild we can give anything a ‘voice’ and venture into exciting and unexplored territory.

Second work, Paraphernalia of suffering choreographed by Tegan Peacock, performed by her and Bonwa Mbontsi of ReRouted Dance Company.

Two stacks of Spar shopping baskets are set downstage, one black man and one white woman stand upstage, sillhouetted. They move slowly down stage approaching the baskets and the lights slowly fade up. They unstack the baskets placing them in a line across the stage.

The programme note states: “We, as consumers, become the driving force behind this economic rat race which we find ourselves living both consciously and unconsciously”. The soundtrack supports this as we hear sounds of a busy shopping mall, people pushing trolleys and groceries being scanned. This work created a link from my own experience of “Black Friday” where words such as — sale, low prices, buy four for the price of one, buy one get one free were used attract people to do shopping. The performers cover themselves with the baskets — as though they become consumed. This brought a sense of trauma, frustration, obsession, greed and stress.

The final piece on the programme, take me back home is choreographed by Sandile Mkhize and performed by Mkhize, Nkanyiso Kunene, Julia Hosmer and Kristi- Leigh Gresse.

Two women, one of mixed race and the other white and two black men walk on stage holding an umbrella designed with different colours symbolising a Rainbow Nation. Tennis balls attached on strings hang from the umbrella.

It is one of those cases where you shouldn’t read the program notes before seeing the performance. I did, and I spent some time looking on stage in vain for what I thought I was going to see.

It’s not that there isn’t anything to commend. The dance technique, flexibility, control, jumps, isibhuiwa, pantsula are all very commendable.

There’s just nothing in it to get excited about how our roots and heritage affect the people we’ve become. I wanted to see more connection between the two women and two men in terms of where the journey will take them.

Why they want to go back home?

What truth are they talking about if they say: “How far have we strayed from our truth and will we need to find our way back home?”

There is so much to describe in this work because there were so many different visual impulses. Unfortunately, the variety of design concepts scattered the effect of the piece for me. With so many different moving parts, the work felt more like a series of provocative images, rather than a cohesive evening length work.

I got the impression that this piece was supposed to go somewhere, that the concept of questioning who they are and how their roots and heritage affect the people they’ve become was a part of a journey that just wasn’t coming across clearly.

In short, this piece was so full of great images and ideas, that I fear it lost its potency as a theatrical dance work.