Cape Town theatre is back and formal attire is completely optional

Gasant Alexander would have had a fabulous night out at Artscape last Thursday, I suspect, at the world premiere of the musical “Calling Us Home”, writes Gasant Abarder in a new #SliceofGasant. That was the name on the envelope of the set of double tickets left for me. Luckily, Gasant Abarder enjoyed the night out too. Abarder, who recently launched... Read more → The post Cape Town theatre is back and formal attire is completely optional appeared first on CapeTown ETC.

Cape Town theatre is back and formal attire is completely optional

Gasant Alexander would have had a fabulous night out at Artscape last Thursday, I suspect, at the world premiere of the musical “Calling Us Home”, writes Gasant Abarder in a new #SliceofGasant. That was the name on the envelope of the set of double tickets left for me. Luckily, Gasant Abarder enjoyed the night out too.

Abarder, who recently launched his book, Hack with a Grenade, is among the country’s most influential media voices. Catch his weekly column here, exclusive to Cape {town} Etc.


As we left for the night out, my mom, who was to babysit the kids, asked: “Are you going dressed like that? To the theatre?” She looked at my ripped denims, check shirt and white sneakers with slight disapproval before adding for the umpteenth time: “We used to dress up for the theatre.”

We left after rolling our eyes. We braved the windiest spot of the world outside Artscape and were relieved to get inside the stately complex.

As it turns out, I was not alone in my choice of casual attire. Old Nico Malan would’ve been rolling his eyes too, I suspect.

I gave up a night of theatre of a different kind as my beloved Manchester United played in a humdinger Europa League tie with Barcelona. This had better be worth it, I thought, as I settled into my seat. Besides, these tickets were free and my mom also warns to not look a gift horse in the mouth.

It was the second night out at the theatre in as many weeks. The week before we went to “Maxeke: This work is not for yourselves” at the newly named Star Theatre at the District Six Homecoming Centre (which before was the Fugard Theatre).

The multimedia piece involves incredible storytelling through music, song, puppetry and narrative to relate the life and times of a giant of the South African struggle, Charlotte Maxeke. It is described as a new puppetry and object theatre production.

I had my doubts. How do you tell this epic story in a stage production? But it is done with aplomb and it is fitting of Maxeke’s stature with the production focusing on carefully selected parts of her life – the teacher, the scientist, the academic, the singer, the activist, the religious leader. What makes it additionally unique is that the script is adapted from the PhD thesis of Dr Thozama April, a fellow of the Centre for Humanities Research (CHR) at the University of the Western Cape. The CHR brought the production to the Star Theatre.

It was a great night out and really brought to the fore things about Maxeke I didn’t know with rousing performances to boot. It takes a special kind of performer to elicit emotion while operating a life-sized puppet.

Over at Artscape a week later, I was engrossed by the story of Grace who is sent to the US from an unnamed African country by her soldier brother in “Calling us Home”. The vocal performances will leave you with goosebumps! It is a tad on the long side though and can do with a generous edit of about 45 minutes to an hour.

Both pieces are innovative and experimental with the use of multimedia, a signal to where theatre is going to attract new audiences. Besides, every production requires polish as it moves from season to season. David Kramer – an award winner in the genre of musicals, who was in the Artscape audience just a few seats away from me – will tell you the same.

The thing about opening nights is that the theatre royalty is invited. You will get unsolicited opinions about “Calling us Home” during intermission or after the show. I’m not a theatre journo and if it moves me the production has done its job.

I realise arts journos are doing their jobs. But they are looking at things with expertly trained eyes. For me, a theatre novice, it was a fantastic night out.

It was exhilarating to be in an audience the likes that we have been denied through the pandemic. Even the overpriced snacks couldn’t dampen the mood. And the full house that cheered and gave standing ovations were ordinary folks like you and me.

Theatre in Cape Town is back and wants to do new things. There will be thorns among the roses but it is heartening to see them packed out. “Calling us Home” and “Maxeke” are brave in that they seek to give regular theatregoers an experience that is traditional enough to keep them intrigued while embracing new storytelling to entice new audiences.

Long may it continue! I think, dare I say, that somewhere out there even Gasant Alexander would have had a rip-roaring time.

Also read:

In Cape Town, the best things in life are free (on your birthday)!

Picture: Gasant Abarder

 

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