07 September 2012

Caesar, interrupted

From back: Sbusiso Gantsa, Sandile Mkhize and Mxolisi Nkomonde in Caesar, interrupted
Photos: Val Adamson

Satire, Symbolism and Social Comment
By: Caitlin Perkins

Jay Pather’s Caesar, interrupted is anything but tedious. His stage is a kaleidoscope of images, colours and symbols; a plethora of unusual and innovative props litter the stage.

Mxolisi Nkomonde in Caesar, interrupted
Pather and Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre created this work in response to his full-length site-specific work Qaphela Caesar!, which has been seen in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Due to funding constraints and various logistical challenges, he was unable to mount the production here at Jomba!.
So, Caesar, interrupted acts as a political statement, a comment on the ever-dwindling resources available for dance in SA so that choreographers end up reducing and diluting their vision and scope for a work, using cheap, tacky props that break and fragment.

The work opens with what appears to be a rehearsal for one of the Caesar productions. A woman (Neliswa Rushualang) sits staring at a laptop, as performers donning a wig and a makarapa emerge out of municipal dustbins and interact with a cleaner.

The dancers comically mark half-heartedly through their choreography to a classical music soundtrack. Projected on the back wall are images from the 1953 film version of Julius Caesar.
The amusing rehearsal is interrupted by the arrival of an e-mail on the laptop from Pather, informing the cast that, due to funding issues, Qaphela Caesar! is on hold, so they might as well stop rehearsing. The cast react in various ways – one continues to rehearse with commitment, while others sit by and watch him despondently. Black and white video clips of Qaphela Caesar! echo the dance on stage.

More e-mails arrive from Pather. The biting sarcasm and dark humour emphasise the real bleakness of the situation, the actual future that dance companies face. We laugh at the exaggerated optimism yet the truth is dire.

Sbusiso Gantsa and Mxolisi Nkomonde in Caesar, interrupted
As the work progresses, it becomes increasingly more abstract and symbolic. The three men continue to dance while Rushualang, the matriarch, dressed in an extravagantly layered crimson dress, enters and puts masks over their faces, the shaman-like shakers on her feet creating an atmosphere of ceremony.

The image of a man plastering his face in white paint hovers on the wall while the dancers place welding helmets on their heads, suggesting an attempt to protect their art.

Sbusiso Gantsa in Caesar, interrupted

Pather’s work continues to raise issues that are provocative. Caesar, interrupted is a fascinating and visually captivating piece; the referential nature of the work is challenging as the audience may not always make the connections but it provides us with a poignant commentary on the state of the arts in SA...and leaves us with some hope.

Sandile Mkhize and Mxolisi Nkomonde in Caesar, interrupted

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Jomba! Contemporary Dance Experience