Hani: The Legend Celebrates a Hero’s Life with a Youthful Ensemble at Market Lab

The ensemble of Hani the Legacy1
The Ensemble of Hani: The Legacy

Pictures: Craig Chitima

DIANE DE BEER

HANI: THE LEGEND

DIRECTOR: Leila Henriques

ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Linda Shabalala

CHOREOGRAPHER: Teresa Phuti Mojela

CAST: Graduates of the Market Lab (Boikobo Masibi, Darlington Khoza, Khanyiswa Mazwi, Mathews Rantsoma, Mthokozisi Dhludhlu, Ncumisa Ndimeni, Nosipho Buthelezi, Pereko Makgothi, Sinehlanhla Mgeyi, Thabiso Motseatsea, Tumeka Matintela and Vusi Nkwenkwezi

VENUE: The Ramolao Makhene @The Market Theatre Square

AGE RECOMMENDATION: PG12

TIMES: Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm and Sunday at 3pm until January 28

 

It’s bold, brash and brilliant just like Hani and the youthful ensemble who are celebrating a hero’s life.

How do you reimagine a hero, perhaps forgotten or not known by particularly the young, and push him to the forefront where he belongs?

In this instance, they played it smart by taking a group of energetic and enthusiastic Market Lab students under the guidance of someone with the insight and experience of director Leila Henriques and you get those young minds fine-tuned and into the zone.

You play to their strengths and then you redline it with some hip-hop and rap with beat. It hits all the right marks with the young who are the target audience but because of the quality and the exuberance, it reaches much wider.

What is impressive is the text that so encapsulates the genius of Chris Hani while cleverly shining a light on his desire and determination to give his people, especially those at the bottom of the rung, economic freedom. This is also what bumps this one brilliantly into where we are right now. It emphasises how on the mark Hani was all those years ago – almost a quarter of a century back.

Because his wishes were so all-embracing and inclusive of especially those who had nothing, his outcomes would have delivered a much different country. That’s also the country so many are pointing to right now. In a world turned upside down by greed, it’s time which is what makes him such a prefect role model for the young and this such an exciting and invigorating show.

Sinehlanhla Mgeyi
Sinehlanhla Mgeyi

But that’s just a part of it. It’s storytelling from start to finish no matter the means. It starts with Hani’s humble beginnings and how he witnessed his parents’ suffering and how that contributed to his political fire and eventually fighting spirit. And it concludes with advice on how to light that torch and take it forward.

It’s all good if you have worked wonders with the script, but then you also have to execute. Inspired by the way the US musical phenomenon Hamilton stands and delivers with hip-hop at the forefront, that’s exactly what they do with this one.

The performances – one and all – are firebrand from the movement to the emotional impact of every word uttered either in speech or in song.

How does one so youthful capture someone so iconic as Mandela? And that’s all part of the fun as well as the gauge of where they’re going in search of their heroes.

Storytelling is such a powerful tool to achieve different things. In this country with its horrific past, this is arguably the purest way to engage and to get to know one another, amongst other things. What better way to explore one another than to celebrate our extraordinary talent?

Mathews Rantsoma
Mathews Rantsoma

Once you discover the transformative excitement of theatre there’s no turning back. In Newtown, both at the main theatres and at the Market Lab, there’s a strong push to engage with young audiences by telling stories that will both educate and entertain. That’s a big ask.

But they have been making inroads on all counts with South African theatre surging ahead as the winner.

These actors were all Market Lab students when they started this production for Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival last year. They have recently graduated, and this short season is their first foray onto the professional stage.

What a way to jumpstart what is not an easy if hugely satisfying profession. And hopefully they can take this one on tour to schools around the country. It is a play that will work for scholars on so many various levels – from creating role models to showcasing the possibility and potentials of theatre and more.

It’s a win for everyone.

But there’s still a week to catch the spirit of Chris Hani as nurtured by this very exciting group of young players. And well done to the Market Lab for giving the play another airing.

 

Theatre students from the UK and SA are saying it for themselves – on stage

DIANE DE BEER

 

It’s time to update this story which is moving into its immediate end phase. There will be more lasting benefits that linger. I first did this interview approximately a month ago in time for the local performances which I witnessed and now the South African students are on their way to Britain for the performance with ODDMANOUT theatre company, in Darlington, UK. I’ve added current details with impressions of the show as well as kept the relevant info on this amazing showcase for a group of young local storytellers. To hitch a ride with this savvy group, know that the theme focusing on young women and their particular problems and potential was chosen long before this current worldwide focus on #me too in the wake of the Weinstein scandal with others tumbling out at the rate of knots:

Picture: Craig Chitima

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Darlington Khoza, Boikobo Masibi, Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi, Ncumisa Ndimeni and Mathews Rantsoma

Walking into one of the Market Theatre’s new-ish rehearsal spaces in Newtown (more than a month ago), I’m confronted with one of the rehearsals for the latest Market Lab collaboration, Encountering the Other, with ODDMANOUT theatre company, in Darlington, UK.

Twelve young people, six from South Africa and six from North East England,  were in the process of coming together in a few days to create a production exploring the realities and possibilities of young women in the current moment in a global context.

But before they got there, the two groups worked separately in their respective countries  creating as much work as they could through their specific processes which in the Lab’s case was mostly improv. “I think where our processes are very much movement based, the UK works much more from a text based space,” explains The Head of the Market Theatre Laboratory, who is also a director on the project, Clara Vaughan. And she confirmed this once the two groups started working together to shape the final product.

Supported by British Council Connect ZA, it is a creative partnership involving both live and digital performance and a coming together of young actors from different countries who can learn from each other both socially and artistically.

And having watched a bit of what the South African Lab students were doing while rehearsing, I know that their enthusiasm, their particular skill sets and their improv abilities would bring extraordinary energy to the project. I did in fact have to check whether this really was improv while watching.

And in the final production, the two groups coming together is so fascinating because of their different approaches and where they come from. The universality of these youngsters’ world is what they worked with most strongly as they played off each others particular energy.

This project came from a strong sense of the shared values of the two organisations: The Market Theatre Lab describes themselves as a creative hub supporting the development and emergence of talented young theatre-makers and contemporary, socially engaged, experimental performing arts.  And having witnessed their work through the years and the graduates moving on to further enrich our theatre landscape, what they’re doing works brilliantly.
ODDMANOUT was established by North East England theatre-makers, Scott Young and Katy Weir to create work with a strong focus on stories of social change and theatre with story-telling at its heart.

And so the twain met.

In the selection of actors who auditioned, the South African contingent split into an equal gender mix, three men and three women: Ncumisa Ndimeni, Mathews Rantsoma, Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi, Darlington Khoza, Tumeka Matintela and Boikobo Masibi.

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Ncumisa Ndimeni, Sinenhlanhla Mgeyi, Mathews Rantsoma , Boikobo Masibi, Darlington Khoza and Tumeka Matintela

“We simply selected them according to the best auditions,” notes Vaughan. But what that particular mix meant in the rehearsal context, is that both the women and the men benefited in particular ways while exploring issues. “The women for example were surprised that the men had as many body issues as they did,” she says. It also meant that the men were much more aware of sounding sexist. “But we’ve tried to create the safety of a playful environment which will encourage everyone to participate and learn,” explains Vaughan as she includes her fellow director Jacques De Silva.

Because the British contingent were all women it also meant that the three South African men added a distinct flavour to the piece representing both genders while focusing on female issues.

Following two performances of Encountering the Other locally last month, the South African team fly to the UK on Friday (November 17), to host a series of workshops on specifically South African theatre-making techniques with the budding actors from the North East of England. This will be followed by a one-off performance of Encountering the Other at the newly restored Darlington Hippodrome on 27 November.

And they should knock their audience’s socks off. They did ours!

And says Clara Vaughan, the shows with mainly young audiences went fantastically and the Q&A sessions afterwards were vibrant and exploratory.

When last we spoke, she was hoping to make a detour to London for these first-time travelers but she had to find funding. Contact her urgently at clara@marketlab.co.za if you can help.