As the audience enters Centenary Hall, a spotlight is trained on a standing figure wrapped in white tulle at centre stage. The house lights dim, music builds, and the figure unwraps himself. As he emerges, the tulle is laid out behind him: a makeshift altar. The stage is set for Jilted. The multidisciplinary production is one of this year’s presentations from the Cape Academy of Performing Arts. By using the premise of being left at the altar, Jilted depicts the joys, fears, and difficulties that accompany the complexity of love and commitment.
At first, Jilted explores head-on how it feels to be ditched on what could be the most important day of a person’s life. From here, the narrative weaves through a variety of stories from both women and men, focussing on themes from war, to being rejected, and whether lovers can wait for each other.
Rebecca Stroebel and Hayley Green perform in Jilted, by the Cape Academy of Performing Arts, in Grahamstown on 5 July 2015, at the National Arts Festival. With diverse dance styles, drama and song, the production looks at the definition of the title Jilted. (Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe)
Co-director Debbie Turner describes how a huge inspiration for this production was our generation’s idea of a disposable world where commitment has become unfashionable. “[In Jilted] we refer to how in the past, people said ‘If something broke, we fixed it,’” says Turner. “Jilted looks at the value of love and commitment.”
The choreography transforms as the relationships do: from being fluid and light, reflecting love’s early moments, to turning repetitive, static and almost tortured as problems arise. We become increasingly uneasy as these stories progress, fearing an unhappy ending. But Jilted culminates in the reconciliation of couples, and the audience is given a sermon on what it takes to create a winning love combination.
The production consists of eight parts, all primarily showcasing dance. This talented group of dancers effortlessly brings the stories to life. The dancing is interwoven with short dramatisations and songs which are used to expand on the relationships portrayed. However, at times these feel like unnecessary interruptions while the audience waits eagerly for the next dance.
One stand-out piece was Brides. Michelle Reid’s choreography effortlessly translates a stage full of dancers into a group of disgruntled women bemoaning the men who have left them.
Another is Sunday Sinners, also choreographed by Reid, which comes as an uplifting reprieve at the end of the show, thrashing out the complexities of the stories it tells. The final piece is full of upbeat jumps, leaps, and lifts, alluding to a triumph of commitment. This leaves the audience somewhat soothed, knowing that love does stand a chance even if one is left jilted.
Turner hopes the audience leave Jilted reconsidering their connections. “It’s about re-evaluating your relationships. It’s about reconsidering what commitment is.”
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