Sightlines – DAY ONE: 23 April 2015

Journey with ARTivist and writer, Katlego K Kol-Kes, as she offers daily reviews and critiques of some 2015 Maitisong Festival presentations.

In this second instalment of Sightlines [n. any of the lines of sight between the spectators and the stage.] we take a look at some of the acts from the first day.

DAY ONE: 23 April 2015

I decided to take residency at Thapong Visual Arts Centre for the start of my evening and end my night at Maitisong. This turned out to be the very same itinerary as that of Artistic Director of Artscape, Mandla Mbothwe.

Though Tefo Paya had explained that the acts being showcased at Thapong were “on the cutting edge of new work from Botswana”, I was still pleasantly surprised at how far some acts had pushed themselves.

Thematically, the theatre/poetry triple bill focused on abuse.

In Ketswakae – a two hander play by Marang Molosiwa – we see the story of how diamond-seeking corporates displaced the San people of the Kgalagadi and later degraded them to sex objects and tourist attractions. When her father’s sickness humbles Nurse Thato (Molosiwa)– the self important healer of the people with western medicine – she confides in Ketswakae (Ndiwenyu)– a San man whose child is rifled with an illness, brought by the unwelcomed guests, which killed his wife. Though it’s a nuanced Setswana playscript with good artistic direction, the exposition simply feels too long. Molosiwa was also outperformed by her co-star Umbambi Ndiwenyu who delivered heart-wrenching agony at the loss of his family, and comedic naïvity in climbing a tree used to talk “to the Gods” (a lie told to him by Thato to get better cell phone signal reception).

Thato Ntshabele was joined by Leshie Lovesong for an untitled poetry performance. The audience, having been warned about the intimacy of the gallery’s interior, were astonishingly segregated by ushers according to the type of ticket each person held. As a result, some of the audience remained outside while we watched the second performance for the evening.

Ntshabele’s poem moves from personal terror, to finding salvation in companionship with gentle seduction of the audience. Lovesong’s presence was captivating and the pairing of the two seemed to work rather well as she complemented Ntshabele’s resonant voice with her modesty. While the audience was celebrating the love of “another blue Monday”, the story took a turn to darkness. Without dwelling on the physical impact of his actions, the motif of exchanging blows, once used for flirtation, morphed into one for the bitter exchange of regrettable violence.

The evening closed off with Paya’s The Incident which the already filtered audience was told was in an even smaller space, “so it’s basically first come first served” said the young usher. As VIPs and Media wrestled to get in along with general audience members, some people gave up and begrudgingly evacuated the building to sit and enjoy drinks and food from the newly opened café on site.

Paya’s situational drama, also starring Zanele Tumelo, tells the story of modern day star-crossed lovers: the hardworking entry level professional and his unknowingly spoilt live-in girlfriend. When work gets in the way of communication, their stories of how their living room came to be are relayed consecutively to the audience. Never too likeable or too detestable, the characters build the tension of their unravelling reality through objects with shared memories. When regret and uncertainty seem to overwhelm both Tshepo (Paya) and Naledi (Tumelo), the action rapidly escalates and you’re made to feel as though you really shouldn’t be feeling someone else’s breath on your neck, or unable to run for your life. While effectively agitating the audience, the play came to an unfortunate end leaving many uncertain about the appropriateness of applause.

As we wormed our way out of the gallery into the open air, I was met again by Mogwana Traditional Song and Dance Group. I mingled briefly with some of the audience members and conversation was, expectedly, not about the plays just witnessed. The goal of creating discomfort had been achieved.

I rushed to Maitisong to catch Inyaya by Mophato Dance Theatre and my discomfort continued; this time because the show prior to Inyaya was still in the theatre at 20:30. Though delays are expected at any festival, especially when you have venues being shared by different shows, but the lack of a courtesy announcement for the delay reflected badly on the festival organisers. Audience members re-enacted my gallery experience as everyone wanted to get the best seat when doors opened- this took twenty five minutes to happen.

Despite the long wait to get in, Inyaya catapulted Mophato Dance Theatre to being my first “Fest Fave” for #maiti15. Based on the story of the abduction and murder of 20 year old Segametsi Mogomotsi in Mochudi, 1994, Andrew Letso Kola proved that he has indeed grown as a practitioner. For anyone with experience of Mophato Dance Theatre’s work, this new expressiveness Kola has found is a refreshing move away from audience pleasing entertainment into the realm of subject invested dance theatre. Every single person I spoke to declared it “too short” but I credit that the company’s fluidity which – with the exception of one awkwardly long blackout – was unstoppable. Though there were some principal roles, the majority of the choreography was performed by the ensemble with interesting mixtures and transitions between unison and canon. This is a thematically poignant work which deserves viewing across the country and the world.

The plate had been set at the opening, but on day one I was moved to tears, disgusted by what ‘love’ can do, and even found my benchmark production and #FestFave. I do indeed feel that this is the year to #elevate with #maiti15. Here’s to seeing what DAY TWO has to offer. Perfomances are taking place at Maitisong, Thapong Visual Arts Centre and Mantlwaneng (Westwood).

 

Katlego K Kol-Kes is an ARTivist, Writer, theatre producer and founder of the Queer Shorts Showcase Festival based in Gaborone. She loves motogo wa madila and has a weakness for Janet Jackson. Her writing spans lifestyle and human interest features, poetry, and music. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, her blog  and via her website.