Arts for Africa – Theatre

2011-06-04 12:47

Rob Murray, who is artistic director and founding member of FTH:K, is not in the habit of making things easy for himself.

Theatre is, in essence, about telling a story. But FTH:K’s raison d’être is to ­“integrate the deaf into the performing arts world in South Africa”.

Despite the challenges, Pictures of You won the 2010 Standard Bank ­ovation award and the Afro-Gothic Quack! and Wombtide have also received critical acclaim.

The five-year-old company’s hard work has paid off. Having showcased their work at the ­Festival’s gruelling Fringe since 2005, they are on the Main ­programme this year and will debut with Benchmarks.

Although Benchmarks currently exists only as a page on the festival’s ­programme, it is a page to be bookmarked.

“Benchmarks is so new it hasn’t been made yet,” says Murray calmly, four weeks before the premiere.

But that doesn’t mean he is ­frantically cobbling together a play. On the contrary, all is going according to plan.

Murray’s approach is “organic”, with the crew and the cast – Liezl de Kock, Daniel Robinson and Thumeka Mzayiya – all providing critical input ­assimilated and directed by Murray.

“It’s not just my vision, although it becomes more so as the show ­crystallises. But we keep it as open as possible for as long as possible, creating new ideas as we develop.”

Murray’s inspiration is the nameless, ­faceless crowd, the alienation and dehumanisation.

The show continues Murray’s desire to master masked theatre, especially in light of FTH:K’s focus on non-verbal dialogue.

It is a demanding task. Rather than being something the performers can hide behind, they paradoxically make them more vulnerable by placing an ­exacting reliance on the body, and the space around it, to tell the story.

There is no text to mask a lapse in concentration.

Despite FTH:K’s track record, Murray is adamant that the company’s name is not something to trade on. “We (the creators) should disappear and the show stands or falls on its own merit.”

I suspect Benchmarks will stand, and with Murray’s stated desire to push masked theatre as far as it can go, it may even stand as a benchmark itself.

While Murray may “disappear” from his Benchmarks when it is staged, he will be appearing on stage himself in the “dark and twisted” Kardiãvale, ­described as a ­“cabaret clown noire ­spectacle” presented by the Conspiracy of Clowns.

If you’re in Cape Town, you can catch the last showing tonight at the Intimate Theatre on UCT’s Hiddingh campus. – West Cape News

» Benchmarks takes to the stage on July 5 at 4pm, and on July 6 and 7 at 4pm and 8pm, respectively.

Kardiãvale is on July 7 at noon and 9.30pm, on July 8 at 6pm and on July 9 at 2pm and 9pm 

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