Posts Tagged ‘clare mortimer’

Ralph Lawson in A Voice I Cannot Silence at the 2015 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. The play, directed by Greg Homann, is based on the life, stories and poems of Alan Paton.
(Photo: CuePix/Sithasolwazi Kentane)

Decades ago, when I was a first-year student at Rhodes, I met Alan Paton. He was fulfilling one of his many speaking commitments; this was rather bizarrely combined with an inter-house debate, in which I took part. The students’ content was frivolous; Paton’s, needless to say, wasn’t.

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When I’m asked to state my occupation on a form, I tend to write unemployed,” says Clare Mortimer, who in fact has three official job titles to choose from: actor, writer and director. Although Mortimer has graced stages at the Festival for longer than she can remember, she didn’t plan on pursuing a career in theatre as a young woman. She didn’t study Drama at university – she thought it would be too much of an easy credit – and ended up graduating with a degree in Law. “I couldn’t sing or dance and I never thought of acting as an actual career,” Mortimer said.

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“Jakob hated light, he hated light so much that he stole it,” says a line from Jakob, a visually and lyrically rich tale of a young boy who is ostracised because he’s different. He steals light to soothe his hurt, and ultimately finds love. Jakob is the result of a collaboration that began a year-and-a-half ago between actor Bryan Hiles (Jakob), lighting technician Michael Broderick, and director, actor and writer Clare Mortimer.

All three are award winners in their respective fields. The stage design is an artwork in itself – an original, visual delight. Originally a short story by Broderick, Jakob was adapted by Mortimer into a more poetic format that was easier for the team to develop. “It’s lyrical, that’s where Clare came in – she has such a wonderful command of English,” says Hiles.

The combination of the beauty of the story and the impressive lighting effects gives the production something special. They work together to create a mesmerising drama. Jakob first showed at last year’s festival after which it was performed at the Hilton Arts Festival, The Musho International Theatre Festival and the Uplands Festival. It’s a complex story, dealing with prejudice, the search for comfort, the power of perceptions, and the necessity of self-love, but it also lends itself to a somewhat lighter interpretation.

How do South African women cope with the complex memories of violence that are passed down through generations? What would the memories and forgetting sound like if they fused with our bodies and minds? Can we contain them in this violent present or will we inevitably fragment into shattered pieces of loss and unfulfilled desire?

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