The third work I saw at the 2017 So Solo Festival directed by Gita Pather was Tswalo.
The programme pointed out how this work is made by the creators of the brilliant Just Antigone and goes on to say “Tswalo is a tale told through poetry and physical storytelling entwined to interrogate the rules that govern life on earth, such as power, creation, politics, connection and intuition.
This imaginative work is powerfully presented by Billy Langa who was both playwright and performer. The themes are broad and the telling is at times biblical in its proportions and language usage. A lot was crammed into the 45 minute work and one would need to see it multiple times to absorb it in any kind of depth. The lighting needs a special mention because Mahlatsi Mokgonyana’s lighting design contributed a lot to the complex work giving it dark and mysterious undertones when appropriate, but overall having enough lighting for even a visually impaired person who battles with darkness to see what is going on. Mahlatsi Mokgonyana also directed the work. The soundscape is by John Withers.
This is not a particularly comfortable work to watch. While it is mostly in English, the vernacular is used, (often for the humour) and I found myself being singled out for unwanted audience participation which added considerably to my personal discomfort factor. Warning: Don’t sit in the front centre.
Tswalo is intelligent theatre and I understand that it will be brought back for a proper season, for those who missed it first time round or those who wish to see it again to absorb more. If you are looking for mindless entertainment, give this one a miss. However, if you wish to be intellectually challenged, do keep your eye out for this one.
Tswalo was seen at the So Solo Festival at Wits Theatre on 1 October. The festival runs until 8 October 2017. Booking at www.webtickets.co.za. Online tickets R75 and at the door R80.
Next up on 4 October 2017 is The Cursed Vagina and Tracks at 13:30 and 19:30 respectively.