LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop: Jane Mpholo's review of Ijoloba (final version)

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This review is part of the LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop. The ten participants each submitted a review to the workshop mentors for feedback. The participants reworked their reviews after two rounds of feedback from the mentors.
This is the final version of Jane Mpholo’s review.

Ijoloba: The prophecy
stands as a testament to the University of the Free State’s commitment to cultural authenticity and storytelling excellence. Under the skilful direction of Rondo Mpiti and Sikhuthali Oliver, the production seamlessly weaved a rich narrative tapestry that not only captivated the audience but also delved into the very essence of Xhosa culture.

The collaboration of 16 students and an alumnus brought a diverse range of perspectives, adding depth and authenticity to the unfolding drama. Each character contributed to the intricate web of emotions, motivations, and cultural nuances that defined the AmaDongwe clan’s quest. The ensemble cast’s commitment to their roles not only showcased their acting prowess but also highlighted their dedication to bringing this South African tale to life.

The three Queens—Fire, Water, and Earth—embodied by Demi Du Plessis, Sara-Leen Chalale, and Lumka Dumezweni, became more than mere characters; they became channels of cultural significance. Their portrayal not only added layers to the narrative but also provided a commentary on the complex interplay of elemental forces within Xhosa cosmology, creating a multidimensional viewing experience.

Monde Ngwenya’s character as the Prophet became vital in the narrative, introducing an intriguing blend of mysticism and prophecy. The thematic resonance of "He who is flawed, made of flesh and blood, must perform a selfless act before the sun sets" echoed not only within the confines of the storyline but also resonated with universal truths. The incorporation of the actual setting sun heightened the symbolic weight of each selfless act, creating a dynamic interplay between the natural and supernatural elements.

The production’s meticulous attention to detail extended beyond the performances to the carefully curated set elements and costumes. The production design itself became a silent storyteller, shaping the audience’s perception and enriching their understanding of the Xhosa cultural landscape. Animal horns, a three-legged pot on a fire, grass mats, beads, and painted masks became visual elements that not only adorned the stage but also served as conduits for cultural storytelling.

The rhythmic beats of the drums and the resonant voices of the singers not only transported the audience to a different world but also highlighted the universal language of music and rhythm. The sense of unity among the diverse audience was fostered by the cast’s ability to break down barriers by inviting audiences’ voices, vividly exploring the transcendent power of storytelling to bridge cultural gaps and forge connections.

In the character of Lelethu Tshangela, an honours student serving as the spiritual guide to the Queens, the production explored themes of wisdom, sacrifice, and the cyclical nature of life. Adorned with a vulture symbolizing death and rebirth, her character became a symbol of the delicate balance between the mortal and spiritual realms. The choices made by the Queens, especially the Water Queen’s role in determining the clan’s heir, became pivotal moments that explored the intricate dance between destiny and free will.

Ijoloba: The prophecy not only succeeded as a triumph of theatre but also served as a cultural bridge, inviting the audience to explore the shared human experiences embedded in South African narratives. Directors Rondo Mpiti and Sikhuthali Oliver’s passion for resurrecting forgotten African stories manifested in every detail, making this production a beacon of cultural vibrancy within the theatrical landscape. As the narrative ventured into uncharted territories, it not only shed light on the specific cultural nuances of the Xhosa tradition but also invited reflection on the universal themes that bind humanity across time and place. The audiences were surely taken into a trans, exploring the physical and spiritual realms through the eyes of the AmaDongwe.

Theatre review: First version

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

Mentor feedback: First version

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

Theatre review: Second version

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

Mentor feedback: Final version

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

Also read:

LitNet | STAND: Teaterresensieslypskool 2023 | Theatre review workshop 2023

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