In the Limelight: Nwabisa Plaatjie’s When We Awake, returns to The Baxter, from February 28 to March 4, 2023- one week only
|When We Awake |
Where: Baxter Golden Arrow Studio
When: February 28 to March 4, 2023 (8pm and Saturday, March 4 at 3pm and on Thursday, March 2 at 11am)
Writer/director: Nwabisa Plaatjie
Performers: Nolufefe Ntshutshe and Sisipho Mbopa
Bookings: Webtickets or see http://www.baxter.co.za/when-we-awake
Info: e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
I saw Nwabisa Plaatjie’s two-hander, When We Awake, in February 2020, shortly before we went into lockdown. It was staged in the Baxter’s Masambe Theatre. I was entranced by the production and I am reposting my review, below. Scroll down, to read. It is thrilling that the play is being staged again, three years after the pandemic throttled the live performance sector. Note: The season is one week and that is it. Most creatives in South Africa, work independently and scrabble for funding to stage their work and reimburse those involved for their work. It is great news to see the revival of When We Awake. The season of has been made possible as a result of Plaatjie receiving the National Arts Council Presidential Employees Stimulus Package 3 (PESP) project, An Artist is Made. Theatre work in South Africa tends to be staged once and is not given the opportunity to be seen by a wider audience, so it is wonderful that Plaatjie’s play, three years later, is being staged again at the Baxter in its Golden Arrow Studio. In addition to her work as a theatre maker, writer, director and performer, the multi-award winning Plaatjie is a curator, collaborator and a mentor. When I reviewed When We Awake in 2020, she was 26, with NINE plays already to her name. In February 2023, at the age of 29, she has added to her body of work and through the pandemic she continued to create. At this juncture, post Covid (well, past lockdown), she is very much aware of the need for independent creatives to work together, to ignite important conversations, to facilitate safe spaces for performance and the biggie – to secure funding so that artists/companies can get paid. The project An Artist is Made, “celebrates community”. It is comprised of five parts: “A series of free workshops for directors at Theatre Arts; an exhibition celebrating 13 years of supporting emerging theatre directors and an exploration of their individual journeys and careers since their bursary production at Theatre Arts [date to be announced for the exhibition]; a community building space; an audience development initiative and two theatre productions – When We Awake and Ziyana [March 7-12 at Theatre Arts].” Plaatjies, in the last decade of her twenties, is no longer an emerging artist and in 2023, post lockdown, she is passionate on creating platforms for her work and others. She does not work alone. Collaboration and sharing of ideas is core to her work. When We Awake was workshopped with artists such as Andrew Buckland and the late Mncedisi Shabangu; Sizwesandile Mnisi , Oarabile Ditsele, Nolufefe Ntshuntshe, Sisipho Mboba. Info follows as supplied but check back for more on this vital project, An Artist is Made:
When We Awake – at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio – ONE week -February 28 to March 4, 2023
Dynamic young director, Nwabisa Plaatjie’s When We Awake, returns to The Baxter, for one week only, from February 28 to March 4, 2023, in the Golden Arrow Studio. Performances are at 8pm, with matinees on Saturday, March 4 at 3pm and on Thursday, March 2 at 11am.
Described by industry professionals and critics as a “nuanced exhibition of protest theatre,” When We Awake, uses story and stories to talk about gender-based violence and patriarchy – it is fun, prickly, hilarious, crazy and sad.
Performed by Nolufefe Ntshutshe (Life & Times of Michael K, Ekhaya, Pieces ) and Sisipho Mbopa (Ityala lama wele, Mbuzeni, Heart of Redness), the powerful two-hander had its debut at the Baxter Masambe theatre, just before the 2020 Covid pandemic and national lockdown. The play was workshopped in pairs, bringing together some of South Africa’s finest artists, with Andrew Buckland and the late Mncedisi Shabangu; Sizwesandile Mnisi and Oarabile Ditsele and Nolufefe Ntshuntshe and Sisipho Mboba, under the direction and conceptualisation of Nwabisa Plaatjie.
“When We Awake strikes the perfect balance of physical theatre, mouthpiece monologue, caricature, sentiment and ease,” as it delves into the outcomes of the #menaretrash, #metoo, #aminext movements of recent years as the horrific scourge of #GBV against women and children continues in this country and around the world. Multi-layered and complex, it employs interesting storytelling techniques such as a chorus and the use of a play within a play.
The story revolves around two sisters who are haunted by the loss of their older sister, Notea. They were told by their mother (apparently as it was relayed to her), that Notea had drowned in a pot of porridge. Their grandmother told them a different story. However, she was never honest about what exactly happened to their sibling. With two versions of the story, the sisters are confused, and each believe a different account of what really transpired.
Nwabisa spent her first professional year at Magnet Theatre as a theatre-making intern in 2016, she is the Theatre Arts 2017 Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary for reimaging The Native Who Caused All The Trouble, the first recipient of the Baxter Theatre Centre’s Playlab, a Fleur du Cap Theatre awards nominee and the winner of the 2018 Baxter CEO’s Young Artist of the year. From 2018 to 2022 she curated and co-ordinated the Baxter’s Masambe Theatre. Her work includes Aha!, 23 Years, a Month and 7 Days, Wine in the Wilderness and Florence.
This short, return season, is as part of Plaatjie’s National Arts Council Presidential Employees Stimulus Package 3 (PESP) project, An Artist is Made. The project celebrates community and is comprised of five parts: a series of free workshops for directors at Theatre Arts; an exhibition celebrating 13 years of supporting emerging theatre directors and an exploration of their individual journeys and careers since their bursary production at Theatre Arts; a community building space; an audience development initiative and two theatre productions – When We Awake and Ziyana.
When We Awake runs at the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from February 28 to March 4, 2023. Book at Webtickets online at www.webtickets.co.za or at Pick and Pay stores. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, contact Carmen Kearns on 021 680 3993 or e-mail email@example.com.
|Repost of review/interview- When We Awake- February 2020 – Baxter Masambe. The play is returning February 2023 to the Baxter, to its Golden Arrow Studio. Note: In February 2020, Plaatjie was 26. In Feburary 2023, she is 29. |
Writer and director: Nwabisa Plaatjie
Cast: Nolufefe Ntshutshe and Sisipho Mbopa
Venue: Baxter Masambe Theatre Dates: February 18-29, 2020
If men behave like dogs; let us treat them like dogs.
Every man is pleading for forgiveness.
If you want to save someone; would you report someone?
This is utterly chilling- and shameful – territory that Nwabisa Plaatjie is setting out in her new play, When We Awake. Her writing is lyrical and brutal. Every line and one feels the punch as the protagonists are mired in a gruel of gender-based violence and patriarchy. In conjunction with images of terror and despair, there is a quirky playfulness which provides release and relief for the viewer.
When I watched this play on the weekend, there were howls of laughter. Howl is the operative word. When We Awake resonates with rage and outrage. Plaatjie is 26 and she is articulating the despair of young women in this country who have had enough of gender-based violence and patriarchy. As it is voiced in the play: “If men behave like dogs; let us treat them like dogs.”
Vivid imagery unfurls in front of us, marshalled through accomplished artists, Nolufefe Ntshutshe and Sisipho Mbopa as they enact a play within a play. There is a lovely sense of the self-referential. In the prologue, they muse that they hope that the play will tour to festivals. They hunt around for props, around the stage. It is physically charged, energetic and vivid theatre, imbued with magical realism.
The medium of expression is framed within a tradition of African oral story telling. Plaatjie began to write the play, while she was studying for her recently completed MA at UCT. She was looking at “African oral storytelling in contemporary theatre” and she has used that medium as a powerful tool in this play. Two sisters are flummoxed by the loss of their older sister, Notea and versions of what happened to her. According to their mother, Notea drowned in a pot of porridge. They don’t know how that aligns with their grandmother’s version.
Plaatjie uses the word “loss” deliberately – and not death. She says: “I think loss seems more fitting because in the world of the play they do not find the body of the missing sister, all they know is that she drowned in a pot of porridge because she got too greedy. The narrative is inspired by a childhood game depicting a similar incident and it felt like the perfect container for When We Awake.”
Regarding the game she is referencing, Plaatjie explains: “We have a variety of Xhosa childhood games that subliminally speak to GBV, but it is only now that I make sense of some of the things we were playing. Today I can look at this game and understand that stories where created to explain the disappearance of young girls, or sexual abuse and we re-enacted those stories on a. daily basis through games. The game of uNotea becomes a metaphor for me for all those women who go missing and their cases never get solved, because the only thing we know about the character in the game is that she drowned in a pot of porridge because she got too greedy.”
Which or whose narrative do we believe? In When We Awake, the missive is ringing out loudly: Chart your own narrative; your own fairy tale, where women are safe, fulfilled and loved. Plaatjie says: “Anyone who has experience intsomi/ Xhosa oral storytelling will be able to map influences of it on the piece. There’s something about the piece that makes it seem like a fairy tale for teenagers and adults. It’s also set in fantastical lands where everything seems possible and women can turn men to dogs.”
When we Awake is Plaatjie’s 9th play. Yes, she is only 26. This is a seriously prolific artist. In addition to her work as a playwright, she is the co-ordinator of the Masambe Theatre at The Baxter Theatre. On that note, Plaatjie says: “We are a home for upcoming artists and are trying to firmly establish Masambe as a space for performance, collaboration and networking. Mentorship is a big buzz word this year and people can look forward to events such as ‘The letter to my young self’ which we have run in the past.”
Link to review on TheCapeRobyn: https://thecaperobyn.co.za/theatre-review-cape-town-when-we-awake-baxter-february-2020/
|ABOUT NWABISA PLAATJIE |
Nwabisa Plaatjie is a cultural leader, theatre maker and independent producer. She holds an MA in Theatre and Performance from the University of Cape Town. Her first professional year (2016) was spent at Magnet Theatre through their year-long Theatre-Making Internship Programme where she created Aha! and 23 Years, a Month and 7 Days, both which have toured locally and internationally. In 2017, she was awarded the 2017 Theatre Arts Emerging Theatre Director’s Bursary for re-imaging The Native Who Caused All The Trouble. [Theatre Arts was formerly called Theatre Admin Collective]. She was the first recipient of the Baxter Theatre Centre Playlab and was also one of five nominees for Best New Director for the 2018 Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards and is the 2018 Baxter CEO Young Artist of the Year recipient.
In 2019 she completed her master’s degree in Theatre and Performance at UCT’s Centre for Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies, directed the South African premier of Wine in the Wilderness and Florence by American playwright Alice Childress and represented South Africa at the Directors in TYA (Theatre for Young Audiences) International Exchange in Berlin. From 2018 to 2022 Plaatjie curated and coordinated the Baxter’s Masambe Theatre, driving its relaunch as a space for performance, collaboration and networking.
She is currently developing her skills in international producing and recently presented on creating healthy and ethical workspaces in theatre at the International Society for Performing Arts (ISPA) 2023 congress in New York.
Info as supplied.
✳ Featured image: Nolufefe Ntshutshe and Sisipho Mbopa, in When We Awake, written and directed by Nwabisa Plaatjie. The two hander was staged in February 2020, at the Baxter Masambe Theatre, shortly before we went into lockdown and returns February 2023, also at the Baxter, this time to the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio. Pic: Fahiem Stellenboom. Supplied.