I'm very aware that there are a lot of people around me that are 'not from around here'; mostly because I am an immigrant myself. I blend in well... because I have been in Canada from a very young age and because I think of myself as Canadian, but there have always been stories and accounting of our heritage in my family (Norwegian, German, Macedonian, Irish, English, American,... and so on). Now I was born in Minnesota (the most Canadian of all the states), not China or Zimbabwe or Wales, but I have always been conscious that Canada is a country of travelers - probably because I lived in Fort McMurray for a large part of my life and the majority of people there come from somewhere else. I went to my friend's homes and was warned to eat from the pot on the left because I was Canadian and I was unlikely to be able to handle the spiciness of the pot on the right. I did my best to understand the heavy accented English their parents spoke, enjoying the cadence and knowing that most of the time they were teasing us. My friends came to my house and we ate grilled cheese and sang along to the radio in my bedroom while my little brothers annoyed us. All this is swirling in my brain as I come home from seeing Ubuntu (The Cape Town Project)
at the Citadel. At it's core is a need for connection between people of different cultural heritage. It juxtaposes South African spirituality and Canadian practicality. It finds common ground that pulls people together and disconnect that pushes them apart. It does so using beautiful music and movement and language - from both worlds.
Following the show, I talked to a young friend of mine and she asked what stood out for me, what resonated. It's hard to articulate. It's a beautifully layered story told in two times, about two visitors to Canada from South Africa - a father and son. Both have challenges when they encounter the Canadian culture - from bad coffee on the lower end of the spectrum to funeral rites on the upper end. Both find connections and both lose them. The story of what happened is unwrapped cleverly with surprise and anticipation. We see bits of the past nested in the search in the present. Emotion is expressed through movement and repetition - both joyous and sad. And it's about ubuntu - "I am because you are" - the perfect word for theatre, for what is a play without an audience?
Here are things that resonated with me:
- I really enjoyed hearing the untranslated Xhosa onstage. The scenes became about understanding the emotional needs of the characters and even though I didn't understand everything, I understood the stakes and how the characters were feeling. Later scenes in the play helped to give context in retrospect challenging my brain to recall and stay engaged. Also, Xhosa with it's clicks is just fun to hear.
- The movement/dance portions were quite lovely. Used to underscore the emotional tides of the characters the flavours of the movement were simply beautiful.
- The juxtaposition of science and spirituality. Those who know me know that I sit much more on the science side, but the show challenged me to be more empathetic to those who are more spiritual. I think I will continue to think about this balance for weeks to come.
UBUNTU (The Cape Town Project)
runs to October 22nd at the Citadel
There's a Pay-What-You-Can this Sunday evening and tickets for all other shows start at $30+fees&GST.
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