To confine or refine: art that colours outside the walls


To confine or refine: art that colours outside the walls

Superhuman feats of dexterity and inventiveness will be required of many artists in the coming months

Chris Thurman

The nominees for the 17th annual Naledi Theatre Awards, for productions staged in 2019, were announced last week. Arts awards ceremonies often have a sense of belatedness about them, referring to events and works that have receded from the public view and public memory; our collective attention span is short. So awards such as the Naledis have an important mnemonic function, reminding us of the theatrical brilliance that we enjoyed (or perhaps missed out on) not too long ago.

Under lockdown, the sense of a recent past that feels like a distant past is particularly acute, and with it comes a mood of longing. There is the nostalgia for what seemed so simple: the gathering of a group of people in a theatre auditorium, ready to be dazzled. Actually, of course, it was never that simple. That is the great trick of theatre makers – they create and perform with apparent ease, hiding the blood, sweat, tears and technical skill from their audiences.

One would hope, too, that for many South Africans who weren’t previously theatre patrons, longing would take the form of regret: Why didn’t I get out and support the arts, revelling in human interaction and meaning-making while I had the chance? Then yearning might also become conviction: When this thing ends, when we’re allowed out again, I will watch every show I can!..

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