Horn of Sorrow

2012-10-08 00:00

Witness Hilton Arts Festival

IT was over 20 years ago that Nicholas Ellenbogen’s Horn of Sorrow first made an impact on local and overseas stages, highlighting the plight of the rhino, faced with vicious depredation from poachers. The threat has not gone away – at this time it has tragically increased – and so a new production that can target a new audience is more than timely.

Showing at the Witness Hilton Arts Festival, both on the main programme and as part of the Jongosi Youth Programme, this production directed by Brendan Crealy who was one of Ellenbogen’s original cast, still packs a punch. I saw it at Jongosi with a school audience, and was impressed by the level of concentration and by the two girls who walked out in front of me, both admitting to having been in tears.

The play is an exciting blend of physical theatre, powerful message and comedy. Menzi Mkhwane makes a fine job of the Vulture who narrates the story of Tembaletu, the young rhino whose life always hangs in the balance as poachers target the great creatures for their horns, while the rest of the ensemble cast take roles ranging from rhinos to poachers, all with minimal and effective props. One of the strengths of the piece is that it doesn’t shy away from one of the reasons that poachers kill rhino – they need money to feed themselves and their families, though often what they receive from the shadowy masterminds is hardly worth the risks they take. But the audience sympathy is always with the animals, and while this piece of theatre on its own will never end the scourge of poaching, it can play an important role. –

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