Amajuba: Like Doves We Rise
Conceived and directed by Yael Farber, written in collaboration with the cast
Oxford Playhouse & Farber Foundry in association with Mmabana Arts Foundation
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
"What is that makes us dream of the dead?" asked a character during this extraordinarily poignant and powerful piece of theatre set in South Africa during the apartheid era. "Is it our longing that calls them?"
According to the programme notes by director Yael Farber, the people of South Africa are bound together as a nation by the tenuous thread of memory - and while it is inevitable that the nation's people should want to move forward in the years since the abolition of apartheid, there is a desperate need to reclaim what Farber calls the "emotional shrapnel left from those dark years".
This production was staged here as the pivotal local event of Black History Month and the images and stories contained therein will resonate in the memories of the capacity audience for many years to come, such was their power and resonance.
From the outset, it was clear that this was to be no ordinary theatrical performance.
The five-strong cast - Tshallo Chokwe, France Conradie, Bongeka Mpongwana, Phillip "Tipo" Tindisa and Jabulile Tshabalala - had the crowd under their collective spell from beginning to end. Not only did they work with supreme unity, strength and grace during the intricately choreographed set-pieces, but their individual performances were mesmerising. These people had stories to tell, messages to pass on to future generations - and their ability to convey those stories in a powerful and involving manner was positively mind-blowing.
The visual imagery, too, did much to heighten the positive and uplifting feel of a piece which sets out to show that the human spirit can shine in the darkest of corners. This was a work which, for all its sadness and poignancy, had the audience leaving the auditorium smiling from ear to ear following the most spontaneous and genuine standing ovation I have ever witnessed.
It was heartening to note that the very few children who had come along to watch the performance were as entranced as the adults, laughing at the funny bits (of which there were many) and strongly empathising with the tragedy and drama. It can only be hoped that the youngsters who were lucky enough to attend this superlative show will have learned a lot from it, including the most important lesson of all - namely, that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
Reviewer: Graham Williams