A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

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

BAOBABS DON’T GROW HERE (article first published : 2003-01-16)

From the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, to the Edinburgh Festival and currently at the new Catalina Theatre in Durban, Baobabs Don’t Grow Here hasn’t lost one jot of its appeal.

At heart it’s a love story, expertly presented by James Cuningham and Helen Iskander. Both graduates of the Jacques Lecoq School in France, they play the two central characters – a couple of gypsies, Matik and Ishka, who are childless at the beginning of the story. Based in the cold and forbidding climate of Europe and engrossed in their fantasy world, they set out to find a baobab tree which Matik’s mother has suggested is an emblem of fertility. Another belief is that if the child is born under the spreading canopy of one of these majestic monoliths, it will grow up big and strong.

The third main character in the scenario is Marek, their son, played by Helen Iskander. The play is structured as a flashback during his journey in which his father takes him back to the beginning of his existence.

Baobabs Don’t Grow Here takes its audiences on two journeys – that of the parents and that of the child. Strongly presented is the dictum that there is no “nowhere”. “Everywhere is the middle of somewhere” affirms Matik. Widely experienced in the field of theatre, James and Helen now collaborate with director Sylvaine Strike in creating their own theatre company in Johannesburg - Fresco Theatre.

The production is a fascinating one as it exists on many levels. It’s physical theatre at its most disarming. It deals with the search for an individual’s roots. It looks at the struggles of those who are homeless and without identity. And it allows two highly competent performers to showcase their versatility while remaining proudly "African".

There are delightful touches such as Ishka’s protection of her rather unlovely little green vase and its orange flowers. One of the highlights is when they playact that they have several children – including twins which neither can tell apart! – and call them in for a meal round the dinner table and observe their prowess in circus tricks. Another is their initial train journey where either one or the other tends to get left behind on the platform!

But all these are academic. In the end, Baobabs Don’t Grow Here is a wonderful mix of sophisticated drama, whacky Chaplainesque comedy and cosmopolitan interaction.

Helen is an absolute delight as the mother Ishka and the son Marek. Her every movement and gesture speak volumes and her expressive face can change rapidly without betraying forced emotion or artifice. She ranges from a volatile shrew to a vamp and from a wide eyed ingénue to the long-suffering mother of an imaginary daughter uttering – with relish – the promise that she will see “the back of my hand”!

I saw this production first at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown where they performed in the Drill Hall which had a much higher stage, offering the desert scenes and the baobab tree far greater majesty. Apart from these limitations, the show works well on the Catalina Theatre stage.

I sat close to the back and the sound coming from the restaurant area was highly intrusive, particularly in such a beautiful price of theatre where there are so many moments of eloquent silence. I hope that something will be done to solve this problem in the near future.

After Durban, the show heads for Namibia where it will play at the National Theatre in Windhoek from February 13 to 16 and the performers offer a three-day workshop. Then it’s on to the Wits Downstairs Theatre from February 24 to March 1. They also hope to play Oudtshoorn before they head for the UK in September. More details from frescotheatre@hotmail.com - Caroline Smart




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart