Performance art is difficult. It’s difficult to create and to do well. Reputedly, audiences struggle to piece it together, to create a coherent understanding for oneself. Often, many people walk away confused and overwhelmed, either ‘loving’ or ‘hating’ it. So perhaps 50% of audience members might disagree with me.
Walk: South Africa was my fourth show yesterday, 10pm. Defeated by the city of one-ways, I arrived a few minutes late to the Dragon Room.
I watched through the glass panels in the door, and nipped in when the crowd was led upstairs, grateful I hadn’t missed a show on day one already. And I’m glad I didn’t.
Walk: South Africa captivates. Powerful images are created using water, bubble wrap, bandages, a silky nighty. A trodden down woman shuffles, guiding our walk. A young woman (Rosa Rogers Postlethwaite) teeters precariously with a full fish tank in her arms, asking whether one can cry underwater. She must disguise her tears. A woman (Koleka Putuma) struggles to breathe, her loudspeaker-projected voice is suffocated underneath the bubble wrap. She is rendered voiceless.
Torchlight is shone at our feet, illuminating what is right on our doorstep, as Genna Gardini delicately speaks her poem. It’s disturbing; a child, hurt and violated. Yet we’re numbed, knowing the story all too well – SA’s daily ‘news’.
Later, an intriguing episode cuts to the bone. A bandaged woman (Siphumeze Khundayi) enacts boxing training. Will her fighting back make a difference? Or does violence perpetuate the viscous cycle? Alongside, a woman (Sara Matchett) sings deeply and beautifully. But harrowingly, her song and expression degenerate into guttural grunts, shrieks, and grotesque contortions. This striking image is still, yet saturated with pain. Will she forever be silenced, helpless, unmovable… or is she no longer hiding the suffering?
A soundscape of noises makes the dark, old building scary. Creaking and closing doors, the crackle from a loudspeaker, squeals from rubbed plastic, tolling cowbells – it is uncomfortable. It’s meant to be.
The title is significant too. Walk: South Africa is partly inspired by Maya Krishna Rao’s The Walk, and so kept its connection in the title (every country should have its Walk version). More so, it considers the dangerous streets women cannot walk, in fear of being attacked, wounded, murdered. And what do we do when the show’s over? We walk away, leaving behind the heavy responsibility of facing SA’s problems.
Although I’m tempted, I haven’t touched heavily on the politics, the social ‘issues’: gender based violence, corrective rape, child abuse. Walk: South Africa interrogates them far more evocatively than my words ever could. – Sarah Roberson
Walk: South Africa is on tonight @ 10pm @ The Dragon Room. Click here for production information.