Karoo Moose, Tricycle Theatre, London
The times they aren't a-changing
Tuesday 23 June 2009
There's a moose on the loose in the Karoo and he's coming to get you... so the villagers of Noxton right down on the Eastern Cape set out to get him first. It's like a Roald Dahl story, but with magic realism: the fate of the moose is bound up with that of his chief executioner, a village girl called Thozama who has been gang-raped by her father's drinking buddies.
If that sounds a bit dark, be reassured that Lara Foot Newton's production of her own play is almost too quick and light-hearted for its own good. It's also staged with flair and fluency.
The moose, a gift from the Swedish ambassador, has escaped en route to the zoo. The point is that the moose is an unknown quantity and gods and ancestors might be piqued by his capture, let alone his consumption. No such dignified status applies to Thozama, and the play – not all that convincingly – transfers the status of another species to her final liberation.
In killing and cooking the moose, and serving him up in nice meaty chunks, Thozama assumes a new strength, and she leads the other children away from the village of old stories and old superstitions. The staging is a sleight of hand to disguise the flaws in this narrative.
The show comes from the Baxter Theatre Centre in Cape Town and has won all the awards going. But despite the Tricycle's excellent record in keeping us up to date with post-apartheid theatre, we haven't really seen anything that suggests things have moved on all that much from Athol Fugard or indeed Nelson Mandela.
In this respect, Karoo Moose deliberately evokes a backward-looking culture. Thozama's mother was killed by a farmer. Her own father barters her for a debt repayment. She gives birth to her child in a drum, and the schoolchildren seem destined only for either destitution or a fantasy life on the road with the symbolic heroine.
Maybe that's the message. Nothing has changed. Nor, do you feel, has it done so in theatrical terms. Although the moose is thrillingly invoked by the six African actors wielding huge hairy moose horns, the representation of childish innocence, old villager head-scratching and comedy policemen is trapped in cliché and caricature.
It's a classic conundrum in the theatre. Do you tell old stories in new ways or new stories in old ways? Karoo Moose is at least an interesting attempt to darken the picturesque while remaining ambiguous about an obviously non-vanishing repressive society.
The actors are immensely likeable and appropriately spell-binding, especially Chuma Sopotela as a fierce Thozama. Thami Mbongo is an irate schoolteacher, Mfundo Tshazibane the hapless father figure and Mdu Kweyama the main moose man.
The play is recounted with the narrative thread switching between the actors. And the infectious township music is arranged by Bongile Mantsai.
To 11 July (020-7328 1000; www.tricycle.co.uk )
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
‘Remember the attackers are a cold-blooded, crazy minority’, says Blek le Rat
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The truth about 'girl things': Three cheers for Heather Watson's honesty
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 Men behaving badly: Urinating while standing, 'manspreading' and the gendering of selfishness
Heavy metal producer's corpse to be mutilated by models as per his dying wish
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors: 'I think as far as coloured actors go it gets really difficult in the UK'
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction
Pixie Geldof signs recording deal with Stranger Records
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd