• Lance August

Once Upon A Nation, a new voice at the Artscape Theatre Centre.

Once Upon A Nation – a fairytale-esque production is now showing at the Artscape Arena Theatre, as part of their New Voices programme. The production was written by Lindsey Abrahams, a face you may have seen on the hit kykNET soapie, Suidooster. This Stellenbosch University drama graduate has extensive stage experience, having played in productions such as Krismis van Map Jacobs, District 6: The Musical and U-turn.

Directed by Lee-Ann Van Rooi, the production delves into the lives of characters who depict a story of democracy, but find themselves living worlds apart. Audiences are greeted by a colourful and multifaceted set design, which incorporates various shapes and dimensions which would fool one into thinking that you’re seeing a piece of children’s theatre.

The production features various characters (and animals) played by Zikhona Jacobs, Skye Russell, and Anzio September. These roles required skill, flexibility and intricate accents which the cast delivered with ease. To aid the story-telling techniques used, the cast relied on puppetry to imitate the child-like excitement synonymous with bed-time stories.

Once Upon a Nation is multi-lingual, and is presented predominately in English and Afrikaans. Ominous lighting states and smoke machines provide a multi-tonal atomosphere inside the venue. The sound design is quirky, fun and real, with sounds that the audience would find all to familiar and humorous. The production further breaks language barriers by incorporating Khoekhoegowab rap music.

The production uses skit-comedy and parody to showcase its themes, such as the uniqueness of our different cultural climate. Through cross-references to the classic novel by George Orwell, Animal Farm, the plot speaks to the state of the South African democracy, 23 years after independence was gained, and how a corrupt government has jeopardised the nation and its people. The play also depicts how South Africans have become sensitive to all elements of everyday life, and despite living in a progressive nation, speaking in politically correct ways have become the norm.

Despite the realistic plot, the production aims to inspire, and is essentially a story of hope. Audiences are sure to leave the theatre with inquisitive minds, questioning how unique each South African culture is; how our everyday realities are paralleled to what has been seen on stage; and, whether we as South African citizens should accept our given fate or rebel against those in power.

Once Upon A Nation shows at the Artscape Arena Theatre until Saturday, 28 October 2017. Tickets are R50 and can be purchased through Artscape Dial-A-Seat, the box office, or at any Computicket outlet.

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