Tswalo which just ended a hugely successful debut run at The Market Theatre’s Barney Simon Theatre is a riveting and unforgettable theatrical experience of the highest standard!
Performed by the supremely talented other half of award-winning theatre company Theatre Duo, Billy Langa and expertly directed by co-creative conspirator Mahlatsi Mokgonyana, Tswalo is multi-layered, offering an intriguing visual and sensory experience which can best be described as a theatrical tour de force.
Whilst productions like Tswalo are not easy to review due to their artistic expansiveness, multiple meanings and diversity of readings, the production is quite frankly a different show every night (a different audience member is picked during a very emotional and beautifully re-enacted moment of the show where the actor remembers his mother and father’s courtship days), it is a no-brainer to see why so many critics and audiences alike have been raving about this production since it was first shown.
Tswalo is to some degree part ritual, part straight theatrical performance and to another degree part ‘play within a play’, this well-crafted production which has both poetry and physical theatre as key creative elements has to rank as one of the very best ever seen at the iconic Market Theatre in recent times.
What the beautiful story manages to do right from the onset is grab the total attention of each audience member and take them on a journey which is akin to a roller-coaster ride with many exciting but dizzying heights, suffocating yet gentle lows and lots of ‘heart in your mouths’ moments.
Theatre Duo has to be commended for their consistent bravery in creating work which goes against the grain at a time when most theatre-makers prefer safety of doing work known to audiences than taking calculated risks.
The run at the Market Theatre will certainly not be the last one as this is one production which needs to be ‘experienced’ not simply watched! Tswalo is essentially described as a “narrative poem” yet it is much more than that. Having already been published in book form by Junkets Publishing, a re-publication of the play-text under Iwalewa Books also took place in October in celebration of three years of this iconic and well-travelled production.
Tonderai Chiyindiko is a part-time arts writer and contributor. He holds a B.A honours degree in drama from the University of Zimbabwe and a Masters degree in Applied Drama from University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa. He has been part and parcel of the theatre-verse both as an actor and director and more generally worked extensively within the cultural and creative industries sector in various capacities.