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

SIKA BOPHA (article first published : 2003-12-6)

Ubunye Artists has been quietly and solidly growing in stature over the past few years. Guiding force Vusi Shashu is tireless in his efforts to bring his project up to mainstream standard.

The latest production Sika Bopha, which had three performances at The Stable Theatre last week, proved that this is a company to be reckoned with and I fully expect to see more exciting productions from them in the near future.

Unlike some community project leaders, Vusi is pro-active in seeking criticism and guidance. He listens carefully, argues his point logically and sets about putting to right any major theatrical flaws.

On the night I saw the production, Sika Bopha had a false start. They began their show on time but unfortunately important invited guests did not do them the courtesy of arriving punctually so the cast was told to stand down while the guests were seated. The show started again about 15 minutes later.

Any performer could be forgiven for losing energy and focus in such circumstances – when will latecomers ever learn that dedicated performers prepare themselves diligently and energetically for curtain-up, much in the same way that sportsmen prepare for a race or a match? When the pistol goes (or the curtain goes up) they must be at the peak of their concentration.

I was happy to see that the Sika Bopha maintained their sparkle and refreshing vitality. The repeated opening and ensuing scenes were as crisply and effectively presented as they were the first time around. My congratulations to them.

There were good performances all round and the company contains much promising talent. Vusi Shashu’s script is uncluttered and clear. The show, dealing with the heroes and heroines who were part of the struggle against the apartheid regime, is told through music, dance and poetry.

Sika Bopha is directed by Howard Msomi with music direction and choreography by Thabani Mbele. I did find the five-member backing group too loud in solos or when they accompanied speech. Some cast members were so concerned about making an efficient and tidy exit that their parting words were often lost. I would also have preferred the actors to engage with their audience during the various narrative sections, telling the story rather than orating.

The revamped Stable Theatre is bound to be a popular venue, situated as it is in the City Centre. With the Playhouse no longer operating with an Education and Development Department, many projects such as Ubunye Artists have been out in the cold with nowhere to present their work in the mainstream of the entertainment industry.

I look forward to more stimulating and challenging productions both from Ubunye Artists and the Stable Theatre. – Caroline Smart




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