I took my friend V with me to last evening’s opening of Neo Muyanga’s Memory of How It Feels at The Baxter because she loves music a lot. This live performance is directed by Ina Wichterich, withÂ Apollo Ntshoko, Chuma Sopotela, Andile Vellem,Â and musicansÂ Galina Juritz, Thandi Ntuli, Candice Martin, Benjamin Jephta,Â Anna Telford, Natalie Mason, Nicola du Toit. Obviously Neo wrote the script, composed the music and was there with the musicians, playing, singing and conducting.
My writing about this piece is definitely going to be all over the place and will probably make little complete sense. This is probably because it’s exactly how I received the piece. There were things I absolutely loved, and thought I ‘got’, things I loved without having a clue, things I ‘got’ which I found a bit boring, things that I totally didn’t understand and didn’t enjoy.
The piece is sort of in three stories, but it’s hard to tell how they are that. They have weird, non-verbal, dance-move links. I love the language of the stories, and the words. They are strange and the language is manipulated in a totally different, clever and sexy way. It is delicious and surprising. The three performers are quite fantastic. Apollo does most of the speaking, and it’s a tough job with the kind of words he is given to use. He is successful for the most part. And he is an amazing performer. Chuma is so wonderful to watch. She manages to be totally invested in what she does, and it feels so right, and natural, and real. And she has the most beautiful back. Andile is gorgeous too. He is deaf, and his sign language gives the whole thing a different dimension.
It was a treat to have the musicians live, on stage and to watch and listen to how they linked up with the action to become part of a whole. And I enjoyed the music itself, which was original and exciting. And the dancing/moving was beautiful too, if not quite repetitive. You see, I don’t actually get a lot of the dancing/moving stuff, especially if it has a lot of unexplained emotion with it.
And that is the thing, I think. A lot of unexplained emotional stuff. When that happens we, the audience, watch and enjoy but don’t feel. We are watching others feel. And I wanted to feel, but didn’t.
I think Ina, as director, did a wonderful job with the areas that she is an expert in; all the physical, dance, movement stuff was fantastic. The phrasing of the magic words though, needed better sculpting.
Memory of How It Feels is an interesting, sometimes magical, very strange performance. It is not for theatre sissies though. You need to have confident theatre opinion to get your head around it. It might make non theatre people scared.
My friend V didn’t say much, but on the way home she said the experience was a bit like watching cricket when you don’t know how the game works, and you don’t really understand the why of it.
The funny thing is, I’m still thinking about it. And remembering how it feels.