Mon 14 May 2018
We arrived a little bit late so rushed to our seats as the performer (Albert Khoza) was ringing bells on the stage. The show looked immediately engaging – the room was completely dark with opera music playing and a giant cinema-style screen, the only thing emitting any light, which illuminated the performer at the front of the stage. He was reclining on a chair, his entire body and face wrapped in clingflim. His face was turned away from the audience as he gobbled on oranges while whistling to himself.
Though the audience couldn't see his face 'in person', we could all see it in detail via the huge screen. At one point, Albert picked up an orange with a knife and as he ate it, he used the knife almost as a toothbrush – digging it well into his teeth. I could sense the audience move around uncomfortably in their seats because we could see specks of blood form around his lips – at least that's what I thought I saw. I was getting nervous – what if the entire play is going to be a slight gore fest? I mean, I'm up for it, but still.
Eventually he stood up and began to use the knife to slice and cut away the clingfilm from his body. The opera music grew intense to match Albert's own high-pitched cackling. Behind him, there was a vision on the screen of a big animal (human meat? animal meat? I'm so paranoid now) being sliced with a giant cutlass. I liked that visual ritual of slicing away the flesh – very Vodun*! When he cut away the clingfilm from his face, I noticed his hairstyle was the exact same as mine – his head was shaved completely bald, bar two giant blue braids entwined around each other. I promise I did not know this going to the show!
Suddenly he turned around and pointed at my friend: “You. Come here. Quickly.” Staring at her. She also had blue hair. He then asked me to come up on the stage with her. He pointed at two other people, a woman and a man. We all got up and started to wash his body with water and a cloth, as he instructed (at this point he was drenched in orange juice). He acknowledged that we both had the exact same hair! I felt almost like a plant – I wondered if the audience thought this was planned? Because it looked too much like a coincidence that both me, my friend and the performer had blue hair. Anyway, enough of being vain!
As the show went on, he described events that to me were Eurocentric, though not any less engaging – talking about diamonds, civil rights and even showing a gif of a dancing Putin, whom he said was the reason he was getting ready and having his body washed – for their date. I loved the multicoloured headdress he wore as his date outfit, while he danced across the stage, lamenting why his date – Putin– had asked him out and then suddenly refused to be seen anywhere with him.
His headdress as he danced spurted out globs of blue paint all over his recently washed body. He smeared himself with it as his shadows created images across the blank screen – very shadow puppet.
All in all, the performance was motivating – watching another African person dabble in Vodun and spoken word was captivating and empowering. I would totally go see it again.
Words: Osaro, founder of Fried Plantains Collective
'And so you see...' by Robyn Orlin showed on May 8 and 9 at Project Arts Centre. Read our interview with the choreographer here.