By DARISE FOSTER
A comment on society, a love story, peer pressure , the story of freedom fighters, Lulu Mlangeni’s Page 27, showcased at the Market Theatre, had guests debating their interpretations of the storyline long after the closing curtain was called. But one thing was universally agreed upon – the performance was stellar from start to finish.
Before the show, 2010 So You Think You Can Dance winner Lulu Mlangeni said in a statement that the piece was inspired by issues that are encountered in everyday life, and that the show would speak directly to societies and interrogate their actions regarding inequalities. Well, it is for that very reason – the inspiration drawn from everyday encounters – that its voice was so powerful.
The audience was captivated from the second the Naledi Award Best Emerging Voice winner walked onto stage. Sirens and gunshots announced her arrival as she danced her solo opener, with the precision of her every move drawing the audience in deeper to her performance. By the time the voice of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela spoke over the movement as Mlangeni danced and mimicked her words, there was not an audience member inside the packed theatre who was not hooked onto her every movement. The story of struggle from torture to freedom was easy to relate to – even though no words were spoken and there were no other people on the stage – and by the time Mlangeni exited, the crowd cheered for her as though she had just saved South Africa from apartheid right in front of them.
It was breathtaking watching people of all ages, races and backgrounds connect with a piece with such minimal dialogue. A quick change in costume –f rom skin-coloured leotard to Miriam Makeba-esque skirt behind a microphone stand to army-printed attire – opened the crowd and the piece up, and allowed every person to take away from it what they connected with and what they saw.
Exit Mlangeni and enter a group of young people all telling very different stories. From themes of homosexuality to infidelity to peer pressure, the storyline was brought forward through the words on the faces of the dancers. Sobbing could be heard in the room as a tortured young actor seemed to battle with his sexuality. Stage lights glimmered off brightened smiles and he embraced his calling. Hearts broke as a young girl gave in to temptation. Every person was identifying with this comment on society in one way or another.
A standing ovation marked the end of a fantastic performance. The deep breaths of men and women as they exhaled the thoughts they gathered as they watched their own lives represented right before them. No two interpretations of this piece were identical, but the impact was the same throughout.