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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

# UNTITLED (article first published : 2008-07-6)

Jaco Bouwer, this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Drama, introduces # Untitled which he designed and directed. A quiet unassuming figure, he comes on stage and reads lines that are repeated later in the play. He is to return to the stage several times as he moves chairs or carries microphones – the director still very much in evidence in this theatre process.

The curtain rises and we can see right to the back of the theatre which now offers at least three times the amount of working space normally afforded the actors in a play with a set. In the distance is a stage. The curtains are drawn. We are therefore not watching the performance area but perhaps the hall itself, the foyer or even ourselves as audience members.

The sound of static fills the theatre but nothing else. Static is what you hear when a radio or television programme goes off the air, in other words – when communication ceases. And # Untitled has a lot to do with communication, or rather the lack of it. The silences speak volumes.

A good ten minutes of the early part of the play is in silence – the audience stares at the actors, or rather at the actors’ backs before they turn round and stare at the audience. This sense of quiet is disturbed by the odd restless movement. People are living here – but they’re locked into their own insularity – is what the message seems to convey.

A young woman moves her chair closer to the front of the stage and all we see is her initially tentative, then frantic, silent screams as she confronts something that represents a horror within. A short while later, she’s all smiles – she’s cool, she’s dealt with it! A phrase is sung: ”sy het ‘n kans” which repeated at speed turns into “I can’t say it” and this was uttered continually throughout the play.

Written by Stacy Hardy and Saartjie Botha with music by Braam du Toit, # Untitled deals with fear but can be interpreted on a number of levels – dealing with the subject, the inability to articulate and lack of self-worth are some of them. Ina Wichterich’s choreography is frenetic. Like life, # Untitled is not an easy road to travel. It deals with fractured speech in different languages which halts, changes directions and becomes meaningless. Occasionally, a seamless run of words becomes a narrative.

This can’t have been an easy piece to learn and my congratulations go to the excellent cast: Neels Coetzee, Chuma Sopotela, Eben Genis, Ntobeko Rwanqa, Albert Pretorius, Anneke Weidemann and Stacy Hardy. – Caroline Smart




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