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PRESS: The award-winning Mandla Mbothwe’s ‘iKrele leChiza’ fires up the Baxter this March

Baxter Theatre Centre

 

"For me house and home is the African spirit of Ubuntu. It's a spirit of socialism that is carried within the heart of Ubuntu."

Award-winning director, Mandla Mbothwe’s acclaimed, iKrele leChiza…the sermon, fires up The Baxter Flipside, from 23 March to 8 April 2023 at 7:30pm, following its hugely successful debut run last year.

 

In a vibrant collaboration with the stellar professional cast and the talented Magnet Theatre Youth Company, iKrele leChiza…the sermon is a rare opportunity for audiences to immerse themselves in a visual exploration and a vivid African soundscape. The production takes on a magical realism style that explores a dreamlike state of spiritual ecstasy and, as in a sermon, is as highly musical and choral.

 

Megan Choritz for WeekendSpecial raved, saying “I was fortunate enough to experience brilliant, meaningful, evolutionary theatre … what can only be described as a transcendent experience. Mandla and his team have created in iKrele leChiza what theatre can be and do to your soul and spirit.”

 

iKrele leChiza…the sermon, is part of a six-year research project called Re-Imagining Tragedy in Africa and the Global South (ReTAGS). The ReTAGS project’s principal investigator is Mark Fleishman and Mandla Mbothwe is a co-investigator. The production has had three iterations thus far: an initial recorded version, Sonic Passages; a Live/Digital Mutation and the live production.

 

It follows the narrative of two siblings, a brother and sister named Luphawo and Mesuli, who find themselves navigating a child-headed home, a current reality for many South-African children. Their parents are stuck in respective liminal spaces between life and death; their mother in an ancestral orientation room because she refused death until her body could no longer go on and their father is in a spiritual exile. He seeks ways of finding their father as well defending and restoring humanity in their home while his sister, Mesuli (wiper of tears/comforter) has to prematurely take on a maternal role in their home. Mbothwe asserts that ‘home’ in the play represents humanity, a village spirit that is currently under siege. Buyaphalala, buxhatshwe zizinja!

 

Mbothwe uses iKrele leChiza…the sermon to argue that humanity or the spirit of Ubuntu “bubambeke ngeyesigcawu” (hanging on by a spider’s web) has become a wound in African society and is constantly under attack. Through the production, he asks "how can you heal or tend to a wound while the wound is still being attacked?" Mbothwe draws from Iintsomi, African oral tradition of storytelling and Homer’s Odyssey terms to differentiate between the ‘good and evil’ characters in the play.

 

iKrele leChiza…the sermon is connected to Mbothwe's previous productions by a through-line of engaging tragedy as catastrophic loss, namely, a mass loss of human life or ‘isivuma’kufa’ to die, so as to be reborn.

 

The production is inspired by Mbothwe’s desire to both retrace, remap and reconnect his work in terms of themes and aesthetics as well as investigate themes of rituals and restoration. The title in this sense is a deliberate combination of seemingly opposing words in isiXhosa; ikrele is a weapon (spear) and associated with images of fighting, defence and protection. ichiza (herb) is used for healing and restoration. One wouldn’t use a spear to collect medicinal herbs. In this way, Mbothwe emphasises the juxtaposition and comments on the growing tensions of ‘redressing and restoration’.  iKrele leChiza…the sermon is Mbothwe’s “reclamation and celebration of African aesthetics whilst undermining borders (across Africa).”

 

Choreography is by Mzokuthula Gasa, musical direction by Zimbini Makwetu and movement direction by Jennie Reznek. The original iKrele leChiza…the sermon showcased sound design by Elvis Sibeko, digital editing by Sanjin Muftic, lighting design by Themba Stewart, choreography by Mzo Gasa, musical direction by Babalwa Zimbini Makwetu, set and costume design by Linda Mandela Sejosingoe and movement direction by Jennie Reznek. The ReTAGS project is being recorded by archivist Jayne Batzofin.

 

The cast comprises Bonga Tshabalala, Zimbini Makwetu, Lulamile Nikani, Indalo Stofile, Nomakrestu Xakatugaga, Emmanual Ntsamba and Nceba Gongxeka. The Magnet Theatre Youth Company are Azola Mkhabile, Buhle Stefane, Sipho Kalako, Thabo Mkenene, Kuhle Myathaza, Lindokuhle Melaphi, Mihlali Bele, Molupi Lepeli, Siphenathi Siqwayi, Wendy Mrali and Nosiphiwo Ndabeni.

 

iKrele leChiza…the sermon runs in the Baxter Flipside from 23 March to 8 April 2023 at 7:30pm with Saturday matinees on 25 March at 12pm and 1 and 8 April at 3pm. Booking is through Webtickets online at www.webtickets.co.za or at Pick n Pay stores.

 

Tickets are R160 throughout and previews are R100. There is an Early Bird Special until end February for just R120, for any performance in the first week of the run.

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