The idea of having two groups of actors meet and start working on a project in 12 days can’t sound any crazier.
Playwright and director Judith Adong talks about her optimism in regard to the just showcased multidisciplinary theatre production Shades.
“I was being told to put together a production in 12 days and there was no script,” she tells a group of people that showed up at Goethe Zentrum in Kamwokya where the cast and crew of Shades were taking questions from a select audience only a day before the show would première at Theatre La Bonita.
Knowing Adong’s body of work, she is a director who is extravagant with time. By the time her shows hit the stage, she may have worked on the script about five years back and will always keep her cast and crew in a camp rehearsing for almost a month before the initial showcase.
But Adong wasn’t working alone, she was sharing the director’s seat with Simon Eifeler, a renowned German theatre director that has in the past worked on collaborations like Trials alongside a Ghanian production crew.
Together, they were tasked with manning an inter-cultural production whose Ugandan cast had only been auditioned in the middle of January while their German counterparts were yet to be here.
Fast forward to Theatre La Bonita where the première show was staged on Saturday night, the gamble by the two directors totally paid off.
A one hour and a half production that wasn’t just multi-cultural but also multidisciplinary in nature; with instructors of dance Abramz Tekya and Johanna Heusser, Peter Stocklin and Kaz Kasozi on music, the group gave a spirited performance that married music, dance and theatre into one symbolic story addressing issues affecting a modern woman.
For most of the production, music – which seemed to outshine more of the show’s aspects played a soundtrack to what was about to or already happening – with a mix of funk, folklore, soul and our home grown contemporary music, Kasozi and group created a bed of sound that gave the performance a soul.
For instance, the rock and roll guitar pattern that recreated a street scene at Speke’s red light and leading to Pamela Keryeko’s monologue Bought – brilliantly crafted and totally fit for the moment.
For the audience, the rocky sound was metaphor for what maybe going on in the mind of a sex worker while she goes on with her work – her fake happiness or the plastic laughter that usually hides the rocked and damaged soul.
And Keryeko fit all these in place with her monologue that was a conversation between a reformed sex worker and the woman whose husband she has ‘snatched.’
True and yet scandalizing, the monologue addressed things like sex workers not being on streets by choice but situations, at the end, in an emotional tone, she even addressed the killings of woman in Entebbe.
This probably became one of the production’s undoing, a well performed monologue that either got the facts wrong or was written out of context – in the preview show, it even got Doreen Baingana, an author and resident of Entebbe to clarify that women in the Entebbe killings were not prostitutes but people’s wives, mothers and sisters to other people.
Her point of view was that she too was or still is a potential victim that can any day end up being termed as a prostitute.
But that wasn’t all, there was a thought that the narrative the production took in talking ‘woman’ issues was basic and could easily turn them into a tired topic like HIV.
For instance, in dwelling on talking about woman issues, they stuffed together single motherhood and drug abuse that instead left a bad taste.
“I find that very biased,” noted one of the revelers at La Bonita adding that problems surrounding single parenthood and drugs affect both men and women.
Andrew Ssebagala, founder of House of Talent and also the Ugandan producer on the project, noted that more than one woman issue was thrown into the mix because the production was a collaboration between German and Ugandan artistes.
“The issue of Entebbe murders connected well with Ugandans and other issues like drug abuse and single motherhood did connect well with the Germans because they are global,” he said.
Bridge Works is an organisation that creates cultural exchanges among performers allowing them to learn and pick something from each other.
This time, it was the Germans visiting Uganda and the shows in September, they hope to take Ugandans to German to experience theatre there.
The Shades shows closed on Sunday with a bridged show at Sharing Hall in Nsambya, since it was a family show, adult content had to be removed to avoid scandalizing those that turned up with people below fifteen years.