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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Vermaak | Entertainment > Teater | Theatre > Resensies | Reviews

The strange beauty of hidden things, silent things ...

Anton Krueger - 2007-07-10

Brett Bailey’s Orfeus left me feeling drained. I was completely transported, swept away, overcome. When we arrived at the first camp, a huddled group of fifty frozen people, the circle we sat around seemed very small. Everything was in miniature: a diminutive representative statue was handled by a sangoma; the seasons changed in pots of dried plants. But as the gorgeous, red-eyed narrator began to weave the lyric of this grand romance between Orpheus and Eurydice, as she whispered her tale of the beginnings of music, slowly the whole wide world surrounding us became drawn into the circle – the rock face of the quarry behind, the sky, the stars.   

After the consummation of their love, after Eurydice has been swept away, we follow a new narrator into Hades, the underworld. This consists of four installations: incarnations of a hell one realises one has long been harbouring in one’s psyche – the smell of tyres burning; chained up children in a concentration camp making sports shoes in a sweat-shop; an old white man with Alzheimers who has forgotten that he’s a man. These are scenes of desolation and despair fusing the many living hells of our world with primal imagery; the suffering of the world above as below. There is also humour amidst the horror, and the lord of the underworld is a colonialist in his safari hat, surrounded by used boxes of Aid to Africa, tapping away on his Mac.

In 2003, in an interview with Rolf Solberg, Bailey said that his works tend to be: “about cultural collisions between the West and Africa, spiritual collisions” and that his themes are “about dreams, about mixing dreams with the supernatural and the natural world ... things that invade from that side, and people that move between the two realms” (South African Theatre in the Melting Pot: 284).

In this astonishing rendition of the birth of tragedy, an open secret is breached. This is a secret in which we are complicit, a furtive knowledge of the horror we hide from ourselves and one another, the story of the suffering of the world. As our narrator warns us as at the start, “This is a story about hidden things … silent things … things that bleed in the dust.” What is perhaps most chilling of all is the strange beauty revealed within that suffering.