Larger than life

The world is coming to South Africa this month. Or rather, it has

already been here since April, when 120 artists from a ­variety of disciplines

converged on the Wits School of the Arts for a six-week residency.

Their mission was to use their varied skills to ­create 32 giant

puppets that will perform a larger-than-life version of Romeo and Juliet, titled The Giant Match,

across the country.

The artists – sculptors, ­painters, costume designers, ­performers,

visual artists, ­builders and puppeteers – are ­finally ready to take their

­creations to the streets.

Creative director Christophe Evette from Les Grande ­Personnes in

France says: “This is visual art that does not appear in galleries.

The other

idea ­behind it is the process of ­collective creation.

It is a team walk; it is

about reclaiming the streets; it’s about street theatre.”

The work involved in this project is all-encompassing.

One floor

below the now defunct revolving restaurant on the corner of Bertha and Jorissen

streets in Braamfontein, the artists have been sculpting, painting, designing

and rehearsing in a double-volume room.

This space accommodates the puppets,

which are a neck-craning 4.5m high.

Although they only weigh 20kg each – it is hard for the ­actors to

learn to manipulate them.

The heads and hands are first sculpted in clay, which

is overlaid with paper mâché, and then the finished head is painted.

Meanwhile,

the mechanical bodies that allow the actors to manipulate their characters are

made in another workshop, while the scriptwriters fashion a story for the two

competing families, and the designers dress the characters.

Artist Sifiso Zimba says: “I think what is interesting is all these

different skills under
one roof.

“I believe that by taking stories from our communities and bringing

them to life, we are making these stories our own.”

Actor Isaac Sithole has been working with gigantic puppets for more

than two years and says that people respond to him differently when he is

controlling the puppets.

He says what he likes about it is that it takes him and

his fellow actors out onto the streets.

In honour of the World Cup, the show will culminate in a ­soccer

match, and the giant ­families will perform at fanparks and at the opening

ceremony.



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