Intersectionality, immigration and humanitarianism in When Swallows Cry
When Swallows Cry, a cutting-edge docu-drama, written by Mike van Graan, and directed by Lesedi Job, rocks Cape Town audiences this February, after a heated season at the Market Theatre in 2017. The production was one of eight to be commissioned by Ibsen International, a Norwegian theatre company, to produce new works based on the theme of migration and refugees.
The production is a constantly interchanging trilogy of immigration narratives, which are set in three different countries. Through Van Graan’s writing, we see a moving and honest portrayal of the lives of immigrants, the spaces they travel to, and the struggles they encounter in gaining access to these spaces. On a deeper level, When Swallows Cry taps into and deals with the social and political issues faced by third-world/developing countries, the familiar narrative of xenophobic violence, racism, violence and murder.
The production showcases the talents of theatre giants, such as Mbulelo Grootboom (an award winning actor, who won a Fleur du Cap award for his performance in Van Graan’s Just Business), Marty Kintu (who was nominated for a Fleur du Cap award for best supporting actor in his performance in Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange), and Kai Brummer (who is best known for his performances in Black Dog/Inj’enyama directed by Clare Stopford, Mbongeni Mtshali’s in (s)kin, and most recently, Immortal, an immersive theatre experience which showed at the Castle of Good Hope). These actors portray sensitivity to the roles which they portray, and immerse themselves in their roles, with ease.
A few notable mentions:
The well-written script is accompanied by a set designed by Nadya Cohen and audio-visual material designed by Jurgen Meekel, which has an element of modernity, which adds to the realism of the space and narrative.
Job applied a directorial approach which draws at the audiences heartstrings, and her soft feminine approach is visible at key moments in the plot where physicality, emotion and intellect intersects. The result is a theatre production which educates, and provokes thought.
Audiences are guaranteed to cry, hurt and laugh. One would leave questioning whether the spirit of humanity, love and Ubuntu is alive and being practiced in present-day South Africa. When Swallows Cry shows at the Baxter’s Flipside, until 24 February at 8pm nightly. Tickets can be purchased through Webtickets, or at the Baxter Theatre Centre’s box office.
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