Review: Modorenai at Theatre Arts, Cape Town, October 2020

When: Wednesday –October 14 to Sunday 18, 2020
Time: 7pm
Tickets: R100. Seating is unreserved
Where: Methodist Church Hall, Corner Milton Road and Wesley Street , Observatory, 7925
Booking info:  082 752 1376
Bookings: No cash sales available at the door
Covid protocols: temp checks etc
Dress alert: Shoes left at door – wear socks

Modorenai is a Japanese word that may be translated as ‘we cannot return’; ‘days that we cannot return to.’ Modorenai resonates with Rafé Luke Green, here, now, in the pandemic.  As we stood outside Theatre Arts, waiting for our cue to go inside, he mused: “Modorenai – I find that interesting. At the moment, we can’t just go back to normal. We have to wear the mask. We have to stay away from each other. We have to find new ways to move forward…”

Green is a Rhodes University graduate and is currently doing his masters at UCT (Centre of Theatre, Dance & Performance Studies). He has always been interested in Japanese culture, such as anime. His sister is teaching English in Japan and he discussed the concept of Modorenai with her, as he developed the piece with dancers, Darion Adams and Crystal Finck.

Modorenai is part of Creating Theatre in the Age of Corona at Theatre Arts. The season has been made possible by “the love and generosity” of the late Gordon Hirschowitz who made a bequest which has made the staging of this season, a reality in pandemic Cape Town. Theatre Art’s Caroline Calburn put out a call to artists, to submit proposals “in response to lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions.” Calburn invited artists to interrogate what it means to be creating theatre in the pandemic and how to stage work which speak to audiences, now; which may be experienced in a live setting and not on a screen. Five new live performance works have been created for this season.

Modorenai – the word/term is emblematic for Green of this strange landscape that we inhabit. Modorenai – a dance piece – features two figures (Darion Adams and Crystal Finck). They move towards each other- trying to find connections but not quite physically getting there. The emotional pull is there. The yearning is there but there is a sense that they can’t get back to where they want to be- physically and emotionally. The set is breathtakingly beautiful. The figures are immersed in a field of petals which glint like jewels, shattered glass; perhaps drops of blood or perhaps discarded bits from the past.

Green made up the petals from shop bought silk flowers. He cut up felt and paper. It is shredded and ripped. Striking lighting design by Frans Mandilakhe Zunguze illuminates the fragments with a shimmering palette of colours. The neutrally clad bodies of the dancers move through this surreal landscape. It is a dreamy and strange landscape that these figures inhabit, feeling their way across and through the petals. Exquisite, emotionally charged dancing by Adams and Finck.

I know that I am using the words “strange” and “surreal” a lot but that is what it is like, as we live in the pandemic. With Modorenai, Rafé Luke Green mirrors the way we are circling around each other; physically distancing; yearning to hug. We can’t return to where were- not until there is a widely available vaccine. We wear masks when we attend live performance. At Theatre Arts, shoes are left at the door. The chairs are placed in singles- wide apart – well over two metres apart. Impressive physical distancing. It feels like one is part of the performance as one tentatively steps into the illuminated space, no shoes, socked feet; treading quietly on the wooden floor. Usually, there is a noise as shoes clunk on that floor. Here we are, masked and quiet as we enter the sacred space of live performance. Strange but beautiful and that is something to hold onto – in this liminal period – still in lockdown – but no longer locked out from theatre.  

Modorenai production credits

Created and directed by Rafé Luke Green
Performed by Darion Adams and Crystal Finck
Lights by Frans Mandilakhe Zunguze

Facebook:             @TheatreArtsObs
Instagram:            @theatrearts.obs
Twitter:                 @TheatreArtsCT

Image credit: Darion Adams and Crystal Finck in Modorenai. Photo by Jesse Kramer. Supplied.

To read release for Creating Theatre in the Age of Corona, click:

To read interview with Theatre Art’s Caroline Calburn, click here: