Every Year, Every Day, I Am Walking
Created by the company
This is a piece of captivating physical theatre that tells the story of a young African refugee who flees her homeland and finds shelter in South Africa. Using not much more than a circular stage cloth, a metal table, some pieces of colourfully printed fabric and imagination, two performers tell a little girl's tragic story, but they tell it with such life-affirming intensity that, rather than the heavy political study one might expect, this is a joyous celebration.
We follow little Aggie from happy childhood games with her sister Ernestine, playing at being grown-ups, to starting school and helping mother with the cooking. Life then seems as free as it once was for the elephants of Africa who, they tell us, knew no frontiers, no boundaries until the coming of fences and barbed wire. Using their shoes like puppets they show us how they walk, run and dance. When Aggie pulls a little origami Crane out of her shoe Ernestine takes flight, turning a pair of flip-flops into wings.
But this life is shattered when machete bearing men burn down their home. Aggie and her mother escape but Ernestine is nowhere to be found. Now they begin a long exhausting journey, sometimes getting a lift on a truck, or gifts of food and water until they reach Capetown, its skyline formed by a wire fence where Aggie goes to school and learns English and writes letters to her sister, letters which, like their house, end up in flames for there is nowhere to send them.
Performers Faniswa Yisa (as Aggie) and Jennie Rezneck (Ernestine, Mama and almost everybody else) tell it all with a mixture of English, French and occasional moments of Xhosa but mainly though their physical theatre skills, bringing such vigour and sincerity to their creation that you cannot help be touched by it. Mark Fleishman's direction, Ina Wichterich's choreography, Neo Muyanga's music, Daniel Galloway's lighting and Juli Anastasopoulos's simple setting are all beautifully integrated and always put the emphasis on the actors.
It last only about an hour and a quarter but every minute will hold you. Don't just take my word; it has already won acclaim in 13 different countries.
Seen in Newcastle last year and at LIFT the year before, this return to London nearly didn't happen. The Home Office regulations for visiting performers now treat them in the same way as immigrant workers with considerably increased fees and bureaucracy to obtain visas. If you believe in cultural exchange and want to see visiting companies give your support to the campaign to get the government to make things simpler for visiting artists and performers. Find out more and sign a petition to Parliament at www.manifstoclub.com/visitingartists.
At Oval House until 13th March 2010
Reviewer: Howard Loxton