News Column

Performing poems is poetry in motion

August 13, 2014

FIRST and foremost a poet, theatre director and actor, Simo Majola (pictured), wants to bring poetry back onto the stage and not just leave it on the page.

With his latest drama - The Funeral: What is the Silence For - he is pushing a style he calls "poedra", trying to meld poetry and drama.

On upstairs at the Alexander Bar on Strand Street, with The Funeral Majola has created a |poetic lament for the commercial-|isation of burial rites.

It also isn't quite being presented in the way it was originally conceived, or recently presented in Gauteng. While he had booked the space months ago, he couldn't quite get the finances together, so only Majola came down to Cape Town and turned the three-man play into a one-man work.

"Poetry is my language, a play |is my expression," explained Majola about the style he prefers |to work in.

He and the actors workshopped several ideas around burial rites when they started working on The Funeral, each writing poetry in their mother tongue before handing everything over to Majola, telling him to turn it into a cohesive story.

While he himself started off in Zulu, he translated everything into English, eventually ending up with the story of Thomas and Mbongeni who are trying to bury their friend Elijah with dignity, but having to comply with some very strange wishes indeed.

Majola finds the topic of death intriguing because it is something every human being deals with and experiences, yet the most common emotion when talking about it is fear.

"I feel like we are scared because we don't know what happens next," he explained in a Q&A session with a group of students after one of |the performances last week.

The first line of the play is: |"We all know we're going to die, |but we don't talk about it."

Majola is a firm believer in theatre that sparks conversation and poses questions, but what really comes through when you |are watching The Funeral is his love of playing with language, |presented in a hypnotic beautifully turned out phrase.

While the 29-year-old originally wanted to study creative writing after matriculating, his father wasn't too keen on financing what seemed like a dead-end educational stream.

So, instead, Majola junior moved from Durban to Joburg to cut his teeth with a community theatre group in Thembisa in 2006 and has moved between the two cities ever since, collaborating with various organisations, theatre companies, film-makers and musicians.

Nowadays he teaches and directs while constantly writing, but always seems to find ways to step back onto the stage.

Majola keeps on circling back home to uMlazi, because he feels like he needs to change the stigma he was labelled with when he pursued a creative path while his friends were studying law, medi-|cine and other academic subjects.

"I don't want the new generation of kids who come after me to face that, to have to explain themselves all the time. They can't put a name to it and they get asked, 'what's that thing again, that you say you do?' Or 'could you come and do that thing you do'. It's always 'that thing'.

"Taking it to my community was letting the elders know, to normalise it, but also making them understand that if you want to go see a play there is a price you must pay for a ticket. It's not just 'that thing' that you must go and watch without paying for a ticket."

Today, 'that thing' has afforded him interesting travel oppor-|tunities, including to the Royal Court Theatre in London earlier this year for a rehearsed reading of his play - The Last MK Fighter.

He was one of six South Africans there as part of a long-term development project between the Royal Court Theatre and the British Council which forms part |of South Africa - UK Seasons for this and next year

He described the rehearsed reading as not only very pro-|fessionally handled, but also invaluable for the considered feedback all the writers received.

All 12 South African partici-|pants in the project return to Joburg at the beginning of |next month for a last round of workshops, at which point a decision will be made about which plays to mount, though all of them will be published in a book.

Then it is back to Cape Town for Majola, who wants to present a play called Necrophilia on the Cape Town Fringe. Since he will use the same actors (Billy Langa, Obakeng Makhutle and Modise J Sekgothe) who would normally work in |The Funeral, if his plans come to fruition, he will try to find a way |to present both dramas in town.

lCatch The Funeral: What is the Silence For at the Alexander Theatre until Saturday. R80 at

Cape Argus

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Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)

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