I don’t get to see much of Myer Taub‘s work. It’s mostly site specific, historical/heritage work that isn’t widely publicised. I saw Myer at Wrestlers on Saturday night and he asked me to come along to the Slave Lodge in town for the final performance of the piece he created for Iziko (the SA museum guys), which was yesterday.
I had mixed feelings about going. I wanted to see what Myer and his cast were up to, but I generally find site specific, historical/heritage stuff a huge drag, especially if it is aimed at school kids who are, I am sorry to say, my worst king of theatre audience to be part of. It often feels like you have to make do with extremely un-theatrical conditions, embarrassing interactions with your audience (who also feel like arbitrary spare parts) and relatively dreary historical subject matter.
Which was why yesterday was a bit of a surprise and delight. The piece was commissioned to commemorate the first slave uprising in the Cape in 1808. Although the story was a little convoluted, we got the idea as we were led by the three performers through various spots in the Slave Lodge where we, the audience, would gather to watch the scenes performed by them.
And what was so cool was how the group of school kids started getting into the show and the story. In the beginning I found myself next to two boys who could only take their eyes off actress Bianca (who was playing a sexy washerwoman/narrator at the time) to flick each other’s ears really loudly. I had to use utmost control not to kick their shins. But by the time we had entered the courtyard and the story got more bloody and exciting (and clearer) the kids were following every word. We were joined at that stage by a group of black American tourists who tagged along for the rest of the show and took many photos and answered cell phones.
What really made this piece of work very exciting for me was the costuming and styling. The actors were dressed in gorgeous, yet simple costumes and all the props and bits of set lifted the whole production into the theatrical realm. It was designed by Angela Nemov who is all over the place at the moment. She was also responsible for the incredible set and design of Dalliances.
I know how hard it is to make this kind of work and to lift it from the squirmy and embarrassing to the successful and powerful. One of the first jobs I did when I had just come back to Cape Town in 1994 was a site specific historical walk about tour for school kids at the V&A Waterfront! So kudos to Myer and his team.
The Slave Lodge is one of those places that everybody knows about and nobody (except tourists) goes to, but it’s an extraordinary space. Check it out.