Advocacy Theatre

Because world changing is not only for rich old men (any more)

OUR precious trees: Amara (Andile Vilakazi) and Gamba (Sbusiso Mhlongo) are siblings of the village of Azibo, with links to the real powers that be, in Forest Spirits of Azibo, at the Hilton Arts Festival.

IN A SACRED circle painted on the grass of the Hilton College campus, real magic takes place in the hands of Andile Vilakazi and Sbusiso Mhlongo. It’s the kind of magic that will not only affect your thinking about the pecking order of the gods that rule this world, but also your ability to have some fun. The Forest Spirits of Azibo is ostensibly a work for children, under the directorial hand of Menzi Mkhwane and it performs tomorrow at 12:30pm in the Wild Garden (follow the signs to ‘Falcon’), at the Hilton Arts Festival. But even if you are very far away from being a child yourself, but open to the presence of something important and very special, this is for you, too.

Premised on the recent catastrophic floods in KwaZulu-Natal, the work uses a complex and innovative range of basic ingredients, from pleated sheets of newspaper and twigs to the participation of children in the audience, to cast its spell over the audience. And in the telling, the story is direct and simple, but it harnesses some profound ideas about the nonchalance of the masters of industry and who Mother Nature is actually in charge of. Not to mention, what it feels like when the gods unleash their anger on a world that has forgotten which way is up.

There’s a sophisticated issue of conflict of interests as the evil capitalist tosses sweets into the audience, as he flies by on his super technology, as there is a reflection on no matter how young or small you may be, you can still change the world. Do you gobble up the sweets as you catch them? Do you hold on to what those sweets represent and spurn them? The day is hot, and the sugar intake feels pressing. The Forest Spirits of Azibo is a story trotted out in the old traditional western means of narrative, where a refrain is used to lend coherence to the work, and bring it cohesion. It’s about the immense power of humility and the ethos of team work.

Like Horn of Sorrow, another work at this year’s festival in the hands of Menzi Mkhwane, the work is premised on the skills of a young and agile cast attuned to the potency of sound in the natural world, and the way of birds and beasts. It does, however take place relatively unprotected under the wrath of the weather. Dress accordingly, anoint yourself with sun protection and come with a willingness to participate and a heart ready to be filled.

  • The Forest Spirits of Azibo is directed and written by Menzi Mkwane. It is stage managed by Sbusiso Mhlongo and Andile Vilakazi and performs tomorrow, Sunday September 25 at 12:30pm at the Hilton Arts Festival in the Wild Garden (follow the signs to ‘Falcon’).

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