LitNet | STAND: Theatre review of Ijoloba: The prophecy (version 2)

  • 0
This review is part of the LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop. The ten participants each submit a review to the workshop mentors for feedback. The participants will then be able to edit their submissions, receive additional feedback from the mentors and finalise their reviews.
This is the second version of Jane Mpholo-Mehlape’s review.

Unveiling African tales:
Ijoloba: The prophecy

Over the years, the Department of Drama and Theatre Arts at UFS has been dedicated to diversity, innovation and inclusivity in their theatre shows. They have achieved this through their latest production, Ijoloba: The prophecy, directed by Rondo Mpiti (UFS lecturer and award-winning artist), with the assistance of the acclaimed Sikhuthali Bonga (Standard Bank Ovation Award-winning artist and lecturer). The production made use of 16 performers, a mixture of current students and an alumnus (Dinga Mpiti) as well as the lecturers (Rondo Mpiti and Sikhuthali Bonga) for the music aspect of the show.

This production was site-specific, making use of the space and elements found there. The cast moved the story from one outdoor location to the next, incorporating trees, grass and stones into the narrative. Eventually, the audience was led to an amphitheatre setting, where they sat to witness the story. The narrative was skilfully woven through a blend of drama, dance and music. The set and costumes created a distinct atmosphere, with carefully placed animal horns on stage, a three-legged pot on a fire, grass mats and beads, and all characters having masks painted on their faces. This production truly exuded an unmistakably African and ritualistic feeling.

Ijoloba: The prophecy was a remarkable showcase of storytelling, entirely in Xhosa, revolving around the struggles of the AmaDongwe clan to secure an heir. Pressure was placed on the three queens (Fire, Water, Earth), portrayed by Demi du Plessis, Sara-Leen Chalale and Lumka Dumezweni. These three ladies, as a combined act, also portrayed the character of the king, speaking simultaneously, and effortlessly creating beautiful echoes of the king’s demands for a progressive and long-lasting monarchy.

Monde Ngwenya, a current student, played the crucial role of the prophet, disrupting the daily routines of the AmaDongwe clan with the prophecy: “He who is flawed, made of flesh and blood, must perform a selfless act before the sun sets.”

What made this recurring theme/prophecy impactful was the clever incorporation of the actual setting sun. The outdoor placement of the performance allowed the sun to become a prominent character in the story. The directors timed the show so perfectly that as the narrative and conflicts intensified, the sun was on its way to set. This added a thrilling element to the production because audience members became characters themselves, unintentionally sharing the discomfort of seeing the sun setting while there was no progress towards triumph regarding the prophecy.

When the beat of the drums and the voices of the singers filled the air, there was an undeniable sense of unity among the diverse audience. They walked the journey with the characters and even sang along. The cast members invited the audience into the story by cleverly breaking barriers, constantly seeking answers from them.

After countless trials and errors, Lelethu Tshangela (an honours student) was introduced into the narrative as the spiritual guide to the queens. Her costume was fascinating, with a vulture on her back – a bird whose spiritual meaning is linked to death and rebirth. This character provided solutions that transitioned seamlessly between the notions of good and evil, as well as birth and death. The queens’ choices would determine the fate of the clan. The water queen bore an heir, providing life and light to the AmaDongwe. However, the story wasn’t black and white, leaving the audience to create their own ending to the not-so-ending narrative.

This immersive theatre experience was nothing short of extraordinary, paying meticulous attention to detail while honouring the authenticity of South African stories. Rondo’s and Oliver’s passion for bringing forgotten African narratives to light was palpable. Ijoloba: The prophecy was a triumph, a testament to the power of theatre when it explores new territories and illuminates our shared human experiences.

Theatre review: First version

LitNet | STAND: Theatre review of Ijoloba: The prophecy (version 1)

Mentor feedback: First version

LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop 2023 mentor feedback | Jane Mpholo’s review of Ijoloba: The prophecy

Mentor feedback: Final version

LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop 2023 final mentor feedback | Ignus Rademeyer’s review of Monsters

Also read:

LitNet | STAND: Teaterresensieslypskool 2023 | Theatre review workshop 2023


  • 0


Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.