Physical Feverby Leila Bloch, images by Candice Chaplin / 23.02.2011
Midday at the train station. Tightly packed rubbish bags have been ripped open. There are loose bricks and orange flyers in the streets, drum majorettes are doing their warm-ups, business men gravitate towards the bass of the spaza hip hop jam in the heat while artists Simon Bannister and Brendhan Dickerson work with intensity. They are in the process of transforming plastic, wire and rubber into sculptures of street people. Brendhan looks up, only to show how his milk cartons are forming the skeletal structure of his next creation.
“I want to alert people to our waste-generating society, I want something ambiguous without being too ambiguous,” he says.
At midday, over fifty people are sent out on a daily treasure hunt through the city. The complex puzzles created by Myer Taub; a professional treasure hunt designer. It is based on the myth of Abdol Malack’s ring. The ring, with supernatural powers was lost by his wife while she was doing their laundry. The story is the foundation of the treasure theme of the festival.
On the way to Adderly Street. Some unusual events are taking place: Through Wimpy’s window drum majorettes eat burgers in perfect synchronicity. Art students and stray school kids meander, expectant. An actress, out-of-character, rushes out of Trafalgar place in a shabby Victorian dress. She is part of the treasure hunt performance. For her the missing ring symbolises salvation and strength. You can catch her alongside a professor and Molly the sheep at 14:30 tomorrow at the Michaelis studio for the Unveiling of the last Vermeer.
A tai chi performance takes place beside the entrance to Macdonalds outside the Golden Acre shopping mall. A street child in a Converse leather jacket sits against the orange roach-decorated stage, breaking the divide between audience and performance. Next up is an aggressive, stylised Xhosa stick-fighting sequence. The performers so focused the chattering crowds and police van interruptions go unnoticed. The crowd moves towards ballerinas who pirouette next to the Golden Acre escalators. Hottentot High School drum majorettes march in time to the Final Countdown and Avril Lavigne remixes. The Jewel Route performances are repeated but not consistently – look out for a repeat of these performances on Friday.
Sensei Ndlovo, who worked closely with Brett Bailey in choreographing many of the martial art and dance events, proudly claims he has sourced the finest physical jewels from around the country and firmly believes in the body’s “ability to communicate using physicality to try and tell a story.”
By mid-afternoon, back at the station things are getting stranger and deeper. The space is constantly transforming. The Unexpected Undercover Cleaning Agency is in full force. There’s a detective who gathers a crowd asking them probing questions about identity, memory and place, while clinging to a toy lion. He gets up with a magnifying glass to inspect the audience. School children flee in hysteria. A homeless spectator claims “You’ve had to much too drink” and leaves. Turn to the left and the silence descends around the station. Strand begins – a ritualistic, physical theatre piece. The performers disperse around the station forecourt in khaki slips emptying suitcases of sand onto the concrete. Directed by Anthea Moys, this piece aims at integrating spectators and bringing the beach back to the city.
*The best way to view the Unexpected Undercover Cleaning Agency is to stumble across them by chance but Strand is a gem and can be seen today at the station forecourt at 11:30am. It’s the perfect mid-morning interruption. There’s also chance to deepen interrogate some of the city’s brightest minds at Talking Heads, a conversational debate with “African thought leaders” which takes place at Iziko South African National Gallery at 7:30pm and costs R100 bucks.
*All images © Candice Chaplin.