Stage: Funk 2019 – Hexagon theatre, UKZN campus, Pietermaritzburg
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
HUGE kudos to Lynn Chemaly, director of theatre at St Anne’s Diocesan College in Hilton, for long being at the forefront of the annual Funk project, a showcase for high school pupils to represent various KZN Midlands schools by performing original group dance works.
It’s a wonderful concept that encourages not only camaraderie, team building, confidence and creativity outside of comfort zones for participants, but an appreciation of the arts that cannot be commended enough. One wonders why schools in Durban and other cities don’t follow the same initiative.
I have publicised Funk since its inception but only last night did I finally take the drive to Pietermaritzburg’s Hexagon Theatre to attend a performance – and I am so glad I did as it proved both entertaining and stimulating.
Each school group is allocated up to six minutes on stage for a work which pupils have co-created and rehearsed with teachers, integrating any type of musical or textual accompaniment.
The show, presented without an interval, offers 12 items, one each from as many high schools, with a focus mostly on contemporary dance expressions.
The items are performed against a blank backdrop, which sometimes features projected images that include flickering flames, hashtagged words and Donald Trump shooting his mouth off.
Dance themes vary from the dangers of false prophets and abuse, to thoughts on overcoming challenges and obstacles, pointing fingers at bullies, emphasising individualism, and taking a stand on issues as diverse as Trump’s build-a-wall lunacy and a child’s mental health being every bit as important as its physical health.
As with any amateur production there are small, forgiveable wobbles – slight synchronistion hiccups here and there and, on opening night, a live vocal that was not heard due to microphone problems, something that is sure to have been sorted out by now.
These are small quibbles, though, and none detracts from one’s enjoyment of a show performed with verve and dedication.
Each item has its merit, but the highlight of the programme, for me, is Hilton College’s striking Astra Inclinant, Sed Non Obligant (The Stars Incline Us, They Do Not Bind Us), which has 10 boys, shirtless and in beige trousers, performing to no music, only the sound of occasional sighing, a grunt here and there.
It’s a truly beguiling piece, choreographed by Joslyn Anderson and the cast, performed in and around a cubed, metallic scaffolding frame, and underscoring the need for freedom and breaking loose, while also emphasising safety in numbers and there being no place like home.
I also loved the light touch of Neverland, a clear audience favourite by Russell Girls’ High School pupils, choreographed by Jessica Swart. Performed to a mesh of Michael Jackson hits, it tells of a storybook fantasy involving zombies and smooth criminals who learn to be better people after crossing paths with two amusing, very imaginatively attired fairy godmothers. Great fun!
Special mention must also go to St Anne’s Dance Theatre Company for a beguiling piece calling for us to lose masks to be true to oneself. With the cast in French mime-artist gear, the piece features choreography by Tegan Peacock. It is titled Nature Boy and performed to The Real Group’s haunting version of that classic ballad.
Also a standout is the lyrical The Thing With Feathers, a beguiling work highlighting hope. It’s by Epworth LiveART Dance Company, choreographed by Bonwa Mbontsi and the company, set to music by Moby and Josh Break’s fine acoustic cover of Imagine Dragons’ Demons.
Other schools participating in Funk 2019 include Carter, GHS, Howick High School, Maritzburg College, St John’s DSG, St Nicholas, TWC and Voortrekker.
Anyone with even a remote interest in dance should give this show support. Final performances are at 7.30 tonight (May 18) and at the same time on May 20, 21 and 22. Tickets cost R75 and booking is at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (033) 2605537.