Preview: Eurydice – multicultural and multilingual site-specific theatre- a pool party- a space to position, locate and engage in Cape Town- creating a dialogue around young South Africans and the way we fall in and out of love with one another

Eurydice – a local take on Sarah Ruhl’s text/play (2003), based on the Greek myth, Orpheus and Eurydice- translated by Kanya Viljoen and Qondiswa James   

What: Site-specific performance, outdoors, in a swimming pool
When: March 9-12, 2022 at 7pm
Where: Cape Town High School, 96 Hatfield St, Gardens, Cape Town- City Bowl Park https://www.instagram.com/citybowlpark/ Tickets: R140 and R120 for concessions (students, seniors)
Bookings: https://theatrearts.co.za/
Creative credits – scroll down  

It is a new month – March 2022 – tomorrow – and here is exciting live performance news. Unusual Bones., in association with Kanya Viljoen, Qondiswa James, Theatre Arts Admin, The Drama Factory, Jan van Riebeeck High School, and City Bowl Park is presenting Eurydice in Cape Town, as site-specific theatre. Unusual Bones. is a collective of creatives in Cape Town, which explores “alternative and interdisciplinary ways of creating projects through a collaborative framework.” The collective “focuses on creating projects that seek to question and explore the human spirit in South Africa.” Eurydice is a local take on Sarah Ruhl’s 2003 text/play, based on the Greek myth, Orpheus and Eurydice. In this season, the iconic myth has been re-imagined to focus on the journey of its heroine and heighten the “themes of love, loss, remembrance, and reminiscence.” Eurydice will be presented in “an empty abandoned swimming pool in Cape Town’s city centre”. 


These Cape Town artists are digging deep into the myth as they reflect on their own landscape, here and now in Covid, year three, with lockdown still in place. The choice of an outdoor setting was made in order to provide safety for the performers and the audience. The pool also ties in conceptually, with Eurydice descending into the depths of the underworld and/or ascending to the ground. Viljoen explains that the pool, “is the cornerstone of the conceptualisation”. The site is “currently under construction to be transformed completely into a skate park, called City Bowl Park.” Find it on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/citybowlpark/ Here we have a liminal space – the abandoned pool – which is transitioning into a skate park – an urban playground. Within that ground of shifting possibilities, we have a collective of artists, grappling with a play, adapted from a Greek myth, which re-positioned the gaze from male to female. As we emerge from being submerged in the fugue of Covid, the artists have not only adapted the play but also translated the text in terms of language, nuance and argot. They invite us all to Eurydice – “a pool party- a space to position, locate and engage”.


About the play an adaption as site specific theatre – talking to us in contemporary South Africa  

In 2003, Sarah Ruhl wrote a play, Eurydice, retelling the fable/myth of Orpheus. Ruhl who is an American playwright, professor, and essayist, put the gaze on Eurydice– the wife of Orpheus and her decision to stay in the underworld with her father or to return to earth with Orpheus. Ruhl created this character- the dad of Eurydice.  Ruhl’s internationally-acclaimed contemporary play, has been translated and adapted by Kanya Viljoen and Qondiswa James “to sit within a South African context. “ It has been translated into Afrikaaps, Afrikaans and isiXhosa by Viljoen and James: “The use of multiple languages creates a sense of the power dynamics experienced within these languages in South Africa. This multicultural and multilingual piece hopes to create a dialogue around young South Africans and the way we fall in and out of love with one another.”  

Loss – remembering, re-constructing, re-calling

“I remember reading Eurydice for the first time and being drawn to the world that had been created… In the last two years, I found myself coming back to the text, dreaming of pools, vast empty spaces, and people waiting for one another. As Covid regulations started to shift, the opportunity of staging Eurydice became clear…. Working on this play I am continuously struck by the idea of loss. A loss of time, a loss of place, a loss of one another and the constant fight to re-member, to re-construct, to re-call”. Kanya Viljoen 

Providing space for femme narratives within Eurydice’s world

“I’ve always wanted to live in Eurydice’s world, one in which she becomes herself, more than an object for Orpheus’ story in the original myth, as we investigate her and sit with her hopes and desires. There’s a great deal of feminist work being done here, to decentralise the man’s story, and instead to find and give space for femme narratives, to give ourselves full lives in colour. It’s been interesting finding how isiXhosa and Afrikaans move through the English of this text, how the poetics become layered in new and complex ways to guide us to richer meaning, or feeling. How this iteration deepens the poetics of forgetfulness, and asks questions about collective memory in a context of a disparate and segregated country and world”. Qondiswa James   

Pool party- a space to position, locate and engage

The collective says: “The choice of staging the play in an empty swimming pool seeks to allow theatre to move away from passive viewership to active engagement with an experience. It invites an audience to a ‘pool party’, to a space where they themselves need to position, locate and engage with the performers as extensions of themselves. The focus moves from product to experimental process, and the bodies and identities that might otherwise be excluded from traditional contexts.”  

Covid Considerations  

“The conceptualisation of the piece, as a site-specific performance, outdoors, in a swimming pool, allows for a large audience in a Covid-friendly environment, as it would be performed in the open air. This is also far safer for the performers, as the pool allows for large space between them. Furthermore, the large nature of a pool could lead to increasing the amount of seating and audience attendance at this event.”
       
Sarah Ruhl’s play Eurydice –presented for a contemporary South audience – March 2022

The premiere season of this piece is taking place as site-specific performance in a swimming pool at Cape Town High School (96 Hatfield St, Gardens), City Bowl Park, from March 9-12, 2022

The season is being presented by Unusual Bones., in association with Kanya Viljoen, Qondiswa James, Theatre Arts Admin, The Drama Factory, Jan van Riebeeck High School, and City Bowl Park

Direction and adaption: Kanya Viljoen  
Translated by: Kanya Viljoen and Qondiswa James 
Performers: Qondiswa James, Ydalie Turk, Francesco Nassimbeni, Thukelo Maka, Seth Louw, Darren Cloete, Faylene van Rooyen, Andoné Strydom and Karla Luyt   
Design: Kanya Viljoenand Nell van der Merwe 
Dramaturgy: Emilie Badenhorst 
Stage managers: Keandri van Wykand Kayla Dunne 
Tickets: https://theatrearts.co.za/
Info: caseyanndiepeveen@gmail.com    
Eurydice in Cape Town: Ydalie Turk and Qondiswa James in Eurydice, presented by Unusual Bones., in association with Kanya Viljoen, Qondiswa James, Theatre Arts Admin, The Drama Factory, Jan van Riebeeck High School, and City Bowl Park. Process photo -pic: Emilie Badenhorst.

✳ Featured image – process photo -pic: Emilie Badenhorst.