I have been a fan of PJ Sabbagha’s work with the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative for a long time. His latest work, With Nothing But Silence They Turned Their Bodies To Face The Noise, does not disappoint.
PJ Sabbagha is first and foremost a theatre maker, and a dancer/choreographer next, and his work is often startling in its in-your-face demands to be heard at a deep social level. The work is tempered by the directorial and choreograph input of Athena Mazarakis, and it carries her stamp as well. She is no less socially oriented than Sabbagha, and her work can be as hard hitting as his. The alloy forged in the fire of creativity between the two is stronger than the sum of its parts.
With Nothing But Silence They Turned Their Bodies To Face The Noise is gutsy, ballsy and demanding. It is not meant to be easy or pretty viewing. It engages with the silence of the planted forests of the Mpumalanga Province where the Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative is now based in a videograph of a work which was performed earlier this year as part of the My Body My Space festival in five towns of the former Eastern Transvaal.
The videograph by Jessica Denyschen becomes the backdrop against which the present work is performed. It makes for a richly textured, but very messy work. The mess is deliberate and the design by Sasha Ehlers reflects this. Our planet is a mess and the work confronts this as the dancers’ shadows fall on the video, as the stage fills up with paper and plastic clutter. One is not given an easy interpretation to follow. Sabbagha never does. He leaves the audience to draw whatever it is that they want from the work. Let your imagination run riot.
The soundscape by Nicholas Aphane is magnificent. Running water, wind, crackling twigs and leaves are interspersed with Baroque Opera.
The lighting is by Thabo Pule. The dancers are PJ Sabbagha, Athena Mazarakis, Nicholas Aphane, Shawn Mothupe, Loren Sookool, Francesca Matthys, and Nomfundo Hlongwa.
With Nothing But Silence They Turned Their Bodies To Face the Noise had a single performance on 15 July 2017, in the Main Wits Theatre as part of the Wits 969 Festival, Wits University.