This evening, after a successful day of forum-ing we made our South African debut as a forum theatre troupe and impromptu choir at a small jazz event just outside of Durban.
The venue, an art gallery, was a pretty high profile thing and we had 30 minutes of everyone's time before the jazz kicked off.
This was a completely different crowd again from those we had worked with before. The audience were mostly patrons of the gallery who had been invited to this event. The musicians are jazz lecturers from the Jazz Faculty at Durban University,
What it did mean is that the forum work here was really more about showcasing forum theatre rather than completely engaging with it. We worked on a tailored version of the family scene from earlier. A seven minute slot with a 10 minute forum.
In the bus on the way over to the event the driver recorded us as we also rehearsed our two songs - and we were in pretty good voice. When the group were singing all together it sounded lovely - when they broke off and sang Mariah Carey it sounded awful. I like to think it's me that makes the difference........
When we turned up at the event we were greeted by Lu and Marius. This, like all the other events so far, was pretty much a mystery to us other than the basics. What was interesting was that the audience was predominantly white people - which meant nothing other than we hadn't played to this type of crowd before. We hoped they would take to it as much as our theatre group today.
Overall the pieces went well. Both songs went down a treat and sounded lovely in the bouncy white walls of the gallery. The performance of the forum piece was strong and Rhian did a particularly good job at forum-ing for this tough crowd. We did see some interventions, however, one man choosing to change the attitude of the father figure, making him more understanding of his wife's plight. One girl choosing the role of the daughter and trying to reason with her family and make a family connection. The final lady choosing to play the part of the mother allowing the father some breathing space as he came in from a hard day at work. I could see Jordan struggling to be continually nasty to this very sweet lady in the role of the antagonist, but he did a great job - proving that even the best ideas can have obstacles.
After the pieces we stayed at the event, ordered some food and listened to the band, the musicians were really fantastic. Of course I immediately thought of Ben and how much he would love to her the music - I recorded as much as I could to show him when I get back. The next best thing to being there!
It was so great to hear some 'proper' music again. In the local villages the songs and music of the children was so infectious and spontaneous I must confess I found Rhianna very difficult to listen to as we entered the much more tourist focussed Durban. (Rhianna here can be substituted for any of the following - Beyonce, Black Eyed Peas, Bruno Mars, Example - they're all rubbish.)
It was also really interesting to be at an Afro Jazz gig which I have never had time to explore. From what I can gather the chord structures are much simpler and is created much more for it's beat than its complexity. That didn't mean the pieces were simple, not at all. The skill of all the musicians, including the singer, were duly noted.
In some of the later pieces we got a chance to dance along with the music and 'let our hair down'. It was great to see the students enjoying the sound and really getting involved. Lisa got particularly involved and ended up on stage with the female singer. It was a real highlight - completely surreal.
When we got back to the hostel the students whipped out their scripts and did some rehearsing for tomorrow. I'm really pleased that they took advice to work on their pieces and just cement them before performing them again. This will improve even more in front of a new audience now that they know what to expect from the day.
Tonight I've talked a lot to Katy and Marina about their connection to the schools they worked in this week and their desire to still help them throughout the year. I think this shows the benefits of this project - the fact that the students came here to help is one thing, inspiring them to continue to help is another. This is a project about education, making people aware of what kinds of lives people have all over the world. Theatre can play such a huge role in shaping people's existences and changing people's minds. People like Lu are bringing Arts to the communities. But all of these initiatives rely on other things too - support, management, good will and, of course, money. We discussed ways that they could possibly fundraise for the schools, using their experiences here as a drive to make a difference.
I'm really proud of how the students are already thinking of ways that they ca be part of this work in the future - not just pitying those they've seen but taking A proactive stance in changing their futures for the better.