I was at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 2014. One of the hottest tickets was to a show entitled Fishers of Hope by Lara Foot, creater of Tshepang. I couldn’t get tickets. 😦
I was delighted when I saw it was coming to The State Theatre and then what with my recent injury and me still taking it easy, and with me not monitoring The State Theatre boards very closely, I nearly missed it. Fortunately there were still tickets and I caught it for the very last performance in Pretoria.
Set somewhere in Africa (afterwards one of the actors mentioned that it was set on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya), this is actually a universal story of a man injured at work and then unable to earn a living. In this case John (Phillip Tipo Tindisa) is a fisherman savaged by a hippo. It is the tale of his wife, Ruth (Lesedi Job), her brother, Niara (Phillip M Dikotla), the son of Niara, (dancer Shaun Oelf) and Njawu (Mncedisi Shabangu), an old friend who is now a driver/tour guide in the city.
The set is by Patrick Curtis. It is a giant of a set, albeit it fairly compact. It holds an African lake and an African village on a medium sized stage without being in the slightest bit cluttered. An important part of the play is the live music by Nceba Gongxela who used a range of African instruments ranging from the Xhosa uhadi, usually played by women, through to a Ugandan harp. The sounds of Africa. He was present from the time the theatre went live and that, together with the beautiful set, was very evocative of the lakes of Africa. All that was missing was the game drinking at the pools, the hippo who terrorised the people and the crocodiles, another ever present danger. The lighting and the choreography all work well under Lara Foot’s (writer and director) guidance.
Subtitled Taweret, after the ancient Egyptian (hippo) goddess of fertility, the spirituality of the play is interwoven throughout. The Bible readings from the dialogue mesh with the music and dance and the silences to create a meditative aura.
Lara Foot is a skilled and compassionate story teller. The subtle satire of a country in turmoil, people battling nature and poverty, the hidden secrets of society, the rape of nature and exploitation of the people by greedy corporations, achieving dignity amidst the battle for survival and the amazing hope that never dies is beautifully captured.
Fishers of Hope is another brilliant piece of theatre. It is now travelling to festivals in Austria and Germany where I am sure it will be well received.
I just want to add that my most recent visit to the State Theatre was exceptionally pleasant. Arrangements were made to get me to the theatre from the parking in a wheelchair and the staff were exceptionally helpful. This made visiting the State Theatre a pleasure.