Absurdity and the essence of life

A combination of caricature, satire, panto and mime, Waterline’s cast of masked characters are incredibly charming and funny as they tackle the absurdity of a life ‘below the water line’ in this cracker of a show at the National Arts Festival.

Magnificently expressive and detailed masks, designed by Catherine Jacot-Guillarmod, turn the cast into lovable, madcap characters who seem uncannily human.

A 2015 Standard Bank Ovation Award-winner, the Uyabona Ke company’s captivating production tackles the apocalyptic consequences of water scarcity.

Waterline
Khaya Kondile and Ayanda Nondlwana in Waterline Photo: CuePix/Mia van der Merwe

Everything depends on access to water. A marriage proposal is rejected because the groom does not have water. He soon trades the rejected engagement ring for the promise of water and goes off on a journey to find it. On the way he meets a cast of characters, all of them desperate for water.

This hard-hitting critique of South African politics takes place in “Aikona Municipality”, with many pompous and corrupt buffoons as officials. The appearance of a fire truck brings to mind Nkandla and the scandalous swimming pool aka ‘fire pool’.

Fights break out over water and total chaos threatens. A child appears to fall into a drying well (represented by a large pile of empty plastic bottles), presumably drowning. A thirsty child drowning seems to sum up the tragic absurdity of life ‘below the water line’.

The show, which is directed by Rob Murray with Mike da Silva as rehearsal coach, has added poignancy playing in a very parched Grahamstown, where an onslaught of visitors is stretching the water supplies to the limit, sometimes beyond.

The National Arts Festival runs until 10 July 2016. More information and tickets: www.nationalartsfestival.co.za
– African News Agency (ANA)

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Siobhan Cassidy

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