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WHERZ IT @ (article first published : 2004-01-29)

Young people looking at issues that particularly pertain to them? Themes of cultural identity, image and relationships? Been there, done that- yawn!!! Not so. Not at the Catalina Theatre, anyway, from now until January 31, where the Catalina Youth Mentorship programme is currently running.

Titled Wherz It @ it showcases the talents of 15 or so young people who have been attending the mentorship programme every Saturday during term time under the leadership of drama teacher Dawn Harrison.

Dawn’s daughter, Jess Harrison, has been the leader of the current project. The initial process involved the teenagers discussing what bugs them in today’s society, where do they fit, where are they going, etc. After what she described as sometimes painful and emotional early stages of discussion when the youngsters spoke freely about emotions and experiences, she produced a script which was further edited in a group process.

The result is a well-written, neat programme which is funky, vibey and refreshingly honest and the performers display a maturity beyond their years.

I was particularly impressed with the performances of Busi Mhlongo, Dershana Moti, Muzi Ndlovu and Tamsyn Wilson. Brother and sister, Meryl and Robert Collins, make a memorable pair – imposingly tall and full of vitality. After seeing him in performance at one of the Jomba! Contemporary Dance Festivals, it’s good to see that Desmond Mchunu continues to grow as a dancer

While the mentorship programme develops skills and gives youngsters a chance to work closely with professionals, it is also strongly geared towards developing theatre audiences. Auditions will be held on February 7 for the next programme when 25 young hopefuls will be taken on for this highly worthwhile project.

Wherz It @ runs from January 27 to 31 nightly at 18h00 at the Wilson’s Wharf venue. To book or for more information, contact 031 305 6889.

A note in passing, I do wish the Catalina would do something about the dark (unlit) area downstage right. It’s highly irritating from an audience perspective. – Caroline Smart




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