Save the Pedestals, a unique international artistic collaboration between the Baxter Theatre Centre, Handspring Puppet Company and Halle Puppet Theatre, makes its African debut at the Baxter Flipside, for four performances only, from 28 to 30 March at 20:00, with a matinee on Saturday, 30 March at 16:00.
Following a hugely successful world premiere in Halle, Germany, last year, the acclaimed South African creative team behind the production promise an iconoclastic work featuring Handspring’s giant colourful puppets, filled with slapstick humour that pokes fun at heroes who have fallen from grace.
Based on a short story by renowned writer Ivan Vladislavić, the show is directed by choreographer and director Robyn Orlin and features puppets by the Tony Award-winning Handspring Puppet Company, led by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones.
The cast of five comprises puppeteers Mmakgosi Tsogang Kgabi (Botswana and South Africa), Lambert Mousseka Ntumba (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Franziska Rattay, Ivana Sajevic and Nico Parisius from the Halle Puppet Theatre. Torsten Mass is responsible for the idea, concept and coordination, while dramaturgy and play development is by Francesca Spinazzi and Andreas Hillger, with German translation by Thomas Brückner.
The show follows the adventures of two struggle comrades, Comrade A and Ma Z, who find themselves in a world of public monuments that have passed their sell-by dates. They wander around Johannesburg, sharing their recent dreams as they contemplate the half-life and the disappearance of historical monuments.
The work is described as a poetic-political discourse that encompasses both the fall of Saddam Hussein's and South African monuments such as that of Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town, as well as the rise of Lenin monuments. The title is derived from a saying by Polish writer and poet Stanislaw Lec: “When destroying monuments, save the pedestals.”
“The idea behind this production of Save the Pedestals is to bring together the best German puppet theatre with the best puppet theatre from African countries,” explained Mass.
“The performance has its finger on the pulse from a historical perspective and simultaneously addresses and encourages discussion around this global problem, in an interesting and provocative manner. Vladislavicʼs story, at its heart, is about how we deal with monuments that have been left behind by political change and we are, therefore, resigned to confiscate them and they end up being nothing more than rubbish heaps of concrete.”
“The performance has its finger on the pulse from a historical perspective and simultaneously addresses and encourages discussion around this global problem, in an interesting and provocative manner.”
Vladislavić has long been concerned with the life and death of statues and memorials, going back to stories like We Came to the Monument (1989) and Propaganda by Monuments (1996). His latest book, The Distance, was launched earlier this year, to great success.
South African-born, Berlin-based Orlin was lauded for her choreography and contribution to the arts by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2009 when he made her a Knight of the French National Order of Merit. She is widely regarded as one of South Africaʼs most controversial and provocative choreographers and performance artists, redefining both forms of the art here through her involvement in the field over the past 20 years.
Handspring Puppet Company has become one of the leading exponents of the genre since it was founded in 1981. The company, whose work has been presented in more than 30 countries around the world, provides an artistic home and professional base for a core group of performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians.
The Halle Puppet Theatre, under the artistic directorship of Christoph Werner, is the only puppet theatre ensemble of its kind in German-speaking countries that performs shows predominantly aimed at adult audiences.
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