A dynamic experience of the performing arts at SENT

By Thato Magano (@pothaeto)

SENT, or ‘the happening’ as we now refer to it, for me was a revelation. None of the stories are new, these women walk the streets of South Africa daily but in SENT they are given dimension and an authenticity that a typical theatre setting would not have achieved.

For our standing catch up last week, my friend Norma invited me to check out something she referred to not as a show or a piece but ‘the happening’. Intrigued, I agreed to go along. As a lover of anything in the arts, I was perhaps more excited for the artistic drama than the artistic critique and evaluation.

Norma herself was unsure of what ‘the happening’ was. She knew that the name of the piece is SENT and it is a self-funded effort by Phumzile Sitole and her friend Carla Fonseca to aid Phumzile’s fundraising endeavours to continue her Master of Arts degree at Columbia University.

The choice of venue (Great Dane, Braamfontein) was a little suspect as Great Dane is more a ‘cool kid’ hangout than a venue for a performance piece, but I went along with some reservation and expectation.

Almost out of nowhere, the happening starts. Not knowing what to expect, we were ushered across the extensiveness of the venue, moving along corridors and up and down stairways, meters away from the two person cast.

Sitole and Fonseca deliver a commanding performance of a variety of characters, and each with a compelling story so distinct you cannot help but be drawn into their individual world even as you are constantly aware of the two leads’ continually evolving roles in housing the characters.

By the second transition, overlooking the courtyard on the balcony, I had forgotten my reservations and was transfixed by the world SENT was offering. A people-of-the-streets world, a world where a mother is uncaring and unmoved by her daughter’s plight in fighting the demons of her abused past, a world where a woman can care for a child that is not hers and in her late years, contend with the fact that she is yet another ‘unremembered’ who raised many a child in suburbia.

SENT Live at Great Dane
SENT
Live at Great Dane
SENT Live at Great Dane
SENT
Live at Great Dane

The potency of SENT, apart from the masterful acting and clever scripting is that it forces you, the audience, to be in the moment with each delivery. The multiple angles of the venue add a literal depth to the performance in that observing a street person from a lofty position on the terrace makes you question your privilege and complicity in their subjugation.

SENT, or ‘the happening’ as we now refer to it, for me was a revelation. None of the stories are new, these women walk the streets of South Africa daily but in SENT they are given dimension and an authenticity that a typical theatre setting would not have achieved.

It has been long that a piece of art has moved me this daringly and left me wanting for more performance art that not only seeks to analyse societal conditions, but makes you an accomplice in weaving the experience. It makes it impossible to end the show and be indifferent; you either have an appreciation for its experimental nature or absolute loathing for its indulgent, sophomoric styling.

You can watch SENT at the PopArt Theatre in Maboneng Precinct on the 22nd and 23rd of August at 20h00 for R80. Due to it being a travelling, site-specific performance there is a forty person limit to each show.

 

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