Theatre preview: My Body My Space Public Arts Festival 2021- ‘staged’ on phone, via WhatsApp January 29 to March 31, 2021

Arts festival: My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival 2021 (#MBMS21)
Platform: On phone, via WhatsApp Festival dates: January 29, 2021 until March 31, 2021 Presented by: The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative, South Africa Programme: Includes over 70 works by established and emerging artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, UK, Germany, Spain and USA Cost: Free Register: Text  ‘HI’ to +27600110444 or scan the QR code – info will pop up – as to how to proceed Performance schedule: Available Jan 29, 2021 Funders: The National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council of South Africa

Theatre on WhatsApp? I was intrigued when I was invited by producer Faye Kabali-Kagwa, to watch a play, The Shopping Dead, which went out on WhatsApp, July 2020 on the Curated Programme at the vNAF – Virtual National Arts Festival (NAF). The NAF usually takes place in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) but when the pandemic hit and the national lockdown was announced, the festival pivoted speedily to an online festival, with the roll-out of the digital stage. The Shopping Dead was my first taste of experiencing theatre on WhatsApp. I was enthralled. That play operated on a broadcast group, with a fixed number of participants. Once it was full, it was full. There were specific performance slots, in which the narrative unfurled. Viewers were invited to click on video clips, memes and gifs. Pings directed one to the next sequence. It was terrific fun. The Shopping Dead was tightly scripted and crafted, with quirky characters, performed by an accomplished cast of actors. I subsequently watched another play on WhatsApp and it was a confusing barrage of verbiage. I am very excited to click in and see what is on offer at My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival 2021 (#MBMS21) which kicks off on January 29, 2021.


The #MBMS21 programme includes over 70 works by established and emerging artists from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar, UK, Germany, Spain and USA. To register, send a text ‘HI’ to +27600110444 or scan the QR code. I did that today, January 14 and received an alert with prompts and that the programme will be announced on January 29. Tonight, I received a message: “We have released a few teasers if you would like to take a look – reply Teaser 😀”. I replied and the “Teaser Menu” pinged onto the phone: “Hello 👋🏾 , we have been so inspired by how many of you are trying to go straight to the ART (even though the festival only goes live on 29 January) that we’ve decided you need a small taste of what’s to come…” There was the invite to text to receive the teasers – trailers – tastes of what is to be staged at #MBMS21. Here I am, in the midst of this awful pandemic, Thursday night, January 14; load shedding is on schedule and I am able to get a taste of this exciting public arts festival, going out free on WhatsApp. Very cool.


By the way, conserve data usage on WhatsApp by selecting ‘low data’ mode. This will save on data costs. All up, this is a fabulous initiative at a time, when we need diversions. We are on our phones and it is great that #MBMS21 is harnessing the WhatsApp platform to bring us theatre, performance and film. I do not know how the works will unfold and the level of audience participation; let’s see. Watch this space

Screen shot from phone, January 14, 2020 teaser menu for My Body My Space: Public Arts Festival 2021 (#MBMS21) which kicks off on January 29, 2021

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Phoenix and Owl Productions. Lo-Def Film Factory. Supplied.