Theatre Arts Admin Collective is joining up with Young in Prison’s post release programme to present Ubuze Bam, a raw, visceral and deeply honest play directed by award winning Thando Doni and starring 4 young men Lazola, Eric, Ntsika and Bongani for whom this is a first time performance experience. Ubuze Bam will be presented at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective from the 29th March – 2nd April @ 7pm before it travels to Delft, Khayelitsha and Kraaifontein in April and to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in June as part of the Cape Town Edge programme.
Ubuze Bam quite literally means ‘my nakedness’ and is a journey of healing and self-discovery for the 4 young men who have had different prison experiences. Originally the project, supported by the European Union and which was devised as a series of 4 short-term performance interventions in prisons in 2015, came crashing down when prisons changed access procedures to external visitors and finally closed their doors and went into quarantine with the outbreak in Pollsmoor of the rat infestation. Through lengthy consultation and with the development of Young in Prison’s entrepreneurship programme, the current project was born – an intense 5 week process for the post-release programme participants that would result in a performance to be shared with a wider community.
It is a well-known fact that performance in prisons fast-tracks a healing process. Currently circulating social media is the article that documents the work Oscar award winning performer, writer and director Tim Robbins is doing in prisons, using commedia del’arte to enable prisoners to tap into and express the extreme emotions that are pent up within them. What has emerged from this 6-year programme is that the number of prisoners re-entering the prison system post their release has been dramatically reduced.
We wanted to create a process and structure for the post release participants where they would go through an intensely focused process that would not only allow them to engage with their stories and their feelings, but that would develop their skills and their self-esteem. They would, through the process, commit themselves to the work, to the act of making theatre and performing, and experience what it means to contribute positively to society. This was very important for us. That they would attribute value to the work that they had created and to themselves and that this would help break the perpetual cycle of feeling and being perceived as a negative influence. We wanted them to experience what it feels like to work hard at creating a piece of art that can affect others positively. We want them to travel to the National Arts Festival as artists and to experience a world that is utterly foreign to them and from which they have been excluded. And ultimately, that they have a product that can employ them in a way that contributes towards the healing of our society.
There have been enormous risks attached to the project, in no small part due to the unstable nature of the lives of the young men. Begun as a project with 15 young men after a week’s rehearsal we consolidated into a core group of 4 brave men who have trusted implicitly the process created by Thando Doni. He is a good teacher, says Ntsika, and the fact that these men have turned up to every rehearsal for a period of a month is testament to their enjoyment and commitment of a process that enables them to be truly seen. Even the Young in Prison facilitators are noticing a vast difference in the men, some of whom who have struggled to remain in the post release programme in the past. Their focus, team work and trust has been an extraordinary testament to the power of the work, and watching rehearsals you experience them as raw performers who have extraordinary potential. It is hard to believe that for some this is their first time in a rehearsal room.
“This is a very challenging process in the sense that you are working with people that have got not much in terms of theatre skills but they have experiences”, says Thando. “They live their stories rather than telling them. In the telling they start to distance themselves from the living. It is challenging to open up and speak. They are young men. For men it is not easy to talk about the things that make us vulnerable, so there is something tricky about that, but something beautiful in that as well. It is the bare truth about us. In the play they say ‘this is a play about me and my friends. It’s our secrets. We are going to tell you the story in the hope that you might get something from it. And in the hope that you will take something away.’ It’s a beautiful thing because it goes back to the humanity of us which says I am because you are.”
This is a must see production for anyone who questions or doubts the power of performance and the willingness for people to change their lives if given an opportunity. Vulnerable and exposed, these men are on a journey.
Designed by emerging theatre and lighting designer Kabelo Chalatsane and directed by Thando Doni, winner of the Theatre Arts Admin Collective Emerging Theatre Directors Bursary in 2012 and most recently acclaimed for his outstanding production Ityala Lamawele at Artscape late last year, Ubuze Bam promises to be an extraordinary experience.
Performances take place at 7pm at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, Methodist Church hall, cnr Milton Road and Wesley Street, Observatory. Bookings can be made on email@example.com / 021 447 3683.
Tickets cost R50.
Ticket Special - there are up to 20 tickets a night for Pay As You Can on a first come first serve basis.
The Black Box, Delft Rent Office – 9th April @ 6pm and the 10th April @ 3pm and 6pm
Makukhanye Arts, Khayelitsha – 16th April @ 6pm and 17th April @ 3pm
Kraaifontein – Venue TBC – 23rd and 24th April.
Tickets cost R30.