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MOTHER MAMA - REVIEW (article first published : 1999-10-17)

After working for two terms as a visiting dance instructor in Technikon Natal’s drama studies department, Hugo le Roux has “nothing but praise” for the students’ achievements. His acknowledgement of their worth is borne out in their performances in his dance drama Mother/Mama which had its premiere at the Courtyard Theatre this evening.

The piece is based on the true story of a South African mother. Who she is, is not an issue. What’s important are the aspects of her life and character that prompted Hugo le Roux to create this piece which he describes as a “complex exploration of a South African matriarchal family unit.“ Through her power as the controlling force of her children, the mother’s “ torn psyche, exposed to the external influences of socio-economic deprivation, manipulates the behavioural patterns and future designs of her offspring.”

The piece demands of the students a hitherto unchallenged emotional maturity and expertise in movement - and they all come up trumps. As the mother figure, Jacinta Richards presents a strong, unbending and commanding character. A desire to sing and a yearning to break out of an overweight and lumbering body are elements that turn Mother/Mama to a bitter, unhappy and unfulfilled woman. She has six children, a husband who comes and goes at will and a constant battle to make ends meet. Small wonder she’s bitter – it’s a story echoed by millions of women throughout the world.

Particularly notable was Monique Hebrard as the abused daughter, handling her role with subtlety and sensitivity. Momelezi Ntshiba and Mlungise Zondi portrayed Mother/Mama’s light and dark side, pushing her in various directions according to their will. Jannie Engelbrecht’s costume designs were effective and worked well. Special mention must be made of the head-dresses in the scene which symbolised the arrogance of the rich who gamble with their own lives as well as with those within their immediate vicinity. On loan from the Playhouse Company, Glenn Ohlsen brought his expertise to the lighting design and Hugo le Roux’s choice of music added to the dramatic content.

At face value, this is a thought-provoking and interesting hour-long piece but – perhaps because of budget or time restrictions – the dramatic content and its attendant complexities were not sufficiently followed through. Flashbacks as opposed to events in the present were not always clearly defined and there were sequences in which performers who had already established themselves as central characters became someone else. This reviewer, for one, had to request clarity on certain points which I had either misinterpreted or situations of which I failed to catch the significance. Hopefully, Hugo le Roux will be able to have a re-look at Mother Mama sometime in the future when it will emerge as the powerful and thought-provoking dance drama it has the potential to be.

Book at Computicket or phone at the theatre on 204-2532.


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