SNEAK PEEK | William Kentridge’s The Head & The Load to premiere at the Joburg Theatre
Everything you need to know about the play:
What it’s about:
This internationally acclaimed exploration of Africa’s role in the First World War illuminates the untold story of the millions of black African porters and carriers who served – and in many cases died for – British, French and German battlefield forces.
A play on the Ghanaian proverb “The head and the load are the troubles of the neck,” the historical significance of their crucial role in the conflict has remained largely unexamined for a century.
The stage set-up:
This exceptionally ambitious production runs across a purpose-built stage stretching over 50 metres along the back of the Nelson Mandela Theatre, with an intimate seating configuration for approximately 500 audience members.
The wings and backstage of the reconfigured theatre become a site-specific performance space large enough to accommodate this monumental work while the audience takes its place directly onstage for a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience.
The Head & The Load sees Kentridge reunited with long-time collaborator Philip Miller, one of South Africa’s leading composers, as well as co-composer and music director Thuthuka Sibisi and choreographer and principal dancer Gregory Maqoma from Vuyani Dance Company.
Together, they created what the artist describes as “an interrupted musical procession”.
The powerful and evocative score is performed by an ensemble cast of extraordinary singers and musicians drawn from across the globe – South Africa, Guinea, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy – offering a perfect complement to Kentridge’s imaginative work.
This rich and multi-layered production features an international cast of 38 performers, mainly from South Africa. The cast – which includes actors Hamilton Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Dambuza Nqumashe and Luc De Wit, with vocalists Ann Masina and Joanna Dudley – vividly brings history to life through a combination of music, text, dance, film projections, mechanised sculptures and shadow play.
New York Times theatre critic Jason Farago described it as “a fiercely beautiful historical pageant,” while the London Evening Standard and The Independent gave Kentridge’s “electrifying” work five stars.
From the director:
Speaking about the production, Kentridge said, “The Head & The Load is about Africa and Africans in the First World War, that is to say, about all the contradictions and paradoxes of colonialism that were heated and compressed by circumstances of the war.”
A range of audience development and education initiatives, including a series of workshops and public programmes at The Centre for The Less Good Idea, will precede Joburg Theatre performances. These initiatives, alongside sponsored tickets, are key to reaching diverse communities across Johannesburg.
Making the performances accessible to as many people as possible from the communities where it is most meaningful is one of the main objectives in bringing this work to Africa.
Location: Joburg Theatre, Braamfontein
Evening performances start at 20:00:
Friday, 21 April
Saturday, 22 April
Wednesday, 26 April
Friday, 28 April
Saturday, 29 April
Tuesday, 2 May
Wednesday, 3 May
Thursday, 4 May
Friday, 5 May
Saturday, 6 May
Matinee performances start at 15:00:
Sunday, 23 April
Thursday, 27 April
Sunday, 30 April