Student Theatre Telling their stories loudly

Telling their stories loudly

The lights come up and the cast start screaming. They are each kneeling in front of a metal bowl with a small pool of water in it. There is a pile of soil by each of their sides. As they scream, they wash their hands and then add the soil to the water and mix it. They are suddenly silent as they stand and then step into the bowl. The show is called To4rm.

Joseph Putter performs in To4rm on 8 July 2015 at the National Arts Festival.  To4rm is a workshopped piece using the principles of physical theatre combined with personal story telling.  (Photo: CuePix/ Amanda Horsfield)

Joseph Putter performs in To4rm on 8 July 2015 at the National Arts Festival. To4rm is a workshopped piece using the principles of physical theatre combined with personal story telling. (Photo: CuePix/ Amanda Horsfield)

It is a Student Theatre piece by AFDA Johannesburg. “The name is ‘to’ and ‘from’, explains Stacy Hart, cast member. “It’s dirtying your feet. You’re going from your past towards something, with the water. You clean yourself and then get dirty again – it’s a life cycle.” The show is a string of scenarios that all interlace in small ways. There is a couple who are struggling to make their relationship work because the man has a child from a previous partner.

A young musician relies on drugs to create his songs. A teenage girl tries to cope as her parents go through an acrimonious divorce. There was an entire storyline that was a mix of English and African languages. It was possible to follow what was happening as an English-speaker, but there was a heavy emphasis on vernacular. “We wanted to stay true to the real-life people that the characters were based on,” says Hart. “There is a certain attitude that different languages carry that makes it feel richer and more textured when the lines are delivered.”
The production was workshopped by the actors. “We came together for a week before production and we shared personal stories with each other,” Hart says. “We picked the stories with the most resonance and put people into groups according to whose stories had a common theme.”

A cacophony of sound prevailed throughout the show. Between each scene, the cast members not directly involved would sing, stomp their feet, chant or shout as they shifted objects around the stage to set the next scene. It was a very effective way of diverting the audience’s attention. Each segment ends with a monologue from a key character. Suffice it to say, most of them weren’t happy.

Sarah Beningfield
Cue student reporter

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