A figure moves balletically on a dusky stage. At first, we are afforded mere flashes of limb and glimpses of silhouette. Once the lights start to go up, the figure picks up and unfolds a blanket, and places it over his shoulders. The man starts to sing a gentle lament that grows loud as his voice fills with gruff emotion.
‘We are in the beginning,’ Billy Langa announces as he swoops to centre-stage: the beginning of the universe and the beginning of this particular human being, irrevocably entwined. ‘Life is but a burp of the Big Bang,’ after all. Armed with a truly impressive vocal dexterity and mesmerising choreography, Langa powers through his own evocative poetry in Tswalo, directed by Mahlatsi Mokgonyana, telling the story of Creation; the story of one specific creation —and throwing the beauty of birth up in stark contrast to the barrenness of a dying world.
The production features lighting and sound design that is both functional and delightful, the latter attribute evidenced by gasps from the audience as lighting states change dramatically and loud heartbeats and falling droplets are heard at various points during the performance. Langa possesses the kind of voice that could enthral a listener for hours on end, and his easy manner makes for unforced, enchanting interaction with the audience.
Let this powerful work show you what the dust remembers. Let Billy Langa’s world-class performance transport you to a world outside time. Whatever you do, don’t let the magic of Tswalo pass you by.
Tswalo is part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival and can be seen at Theatre Arts Admin for one more performance on the 4th of October.