South Africa – Jonluke Mckie

Today it feels like we found the voice of the piece. We knew what the ingredients were: Testimony, allegory and music, but today it feels like we’ve begun to find the method by which we’ll mix these up together, and (thank goodness) it seems we’re cooking up a storm. Everyone in the ensemble brings something different, their skills, their history, their physicality.

Ingredient 1: Music

In my spare time I sing a lot in the UK, sometimes songs I’ve written, sometimes in groups or choirs; it’s a big part of my life. But singing in South Africa is different somehow. In the UK it takes real effort to let ourselves go when singing. Our reserved British nature telling us to be quiet: It’s rude to shout, arrogant to express ourselves, and god forbid we should hit a bum note or make some other mistake- it would be terribly embarrassing for everyone involved.

Here, you’re sort of buoyed up by the South Africans, by the heat, by the energy. It seems natural to let go, open up and belt it out. Having Schuppo guiding you and such a talented cast around you doesn’t hurt, spine tingling harmonies are created off the top of heads, we ‘dance to understand the music’ and if you’re non-committal or too quiet, Schuppo gives you ‘The Look’ and you soon step up. The collective result is beautiful.

Ingredient 2: Fiction

We’ve been developing a fictional, allegorical story that deals with some of the stuff we’re tackling. A girl has a call to adventure, she is to travel to a different world, embed herself in that culture and return home. We talk a lot about belonging. Trying to walk in the shoes of another culture, but only being able to see through your own cultural lens. We talk about what we bring with us when we go on a journey, what we leave behind when we come home, and what we’re left with afterwards.

For me, it has been fascinating to dip my toes into a culture that is at once so similar and so opposite to the place I’m from. Perhaps the phrase ‘Dipping my toes’ sounds diminutive and small – it’s not, the experience is big and profound, but I feel that the more time I spend in South Africa the more I realize how far I am from understanding this beautiful complicated place.

Ingredient 3: Testimony

We’re just beginning to transcribe text from interviews and group discussions we’ve been having. The material is rich. Voices from two continents tackle their politics, their values, their beliefs. We agree, we disagree, we agree to disagree. I don’t yet know how the verbatim text will be used in the piece, we’re yet to discover this, but I know how fascinating our conversations have been. I’m excited to share them with our audiences.

What will come out of the whole process is still to be seen, there’s a lot of work to do and many decisions to be made, but what I do know is that when you put a bunch of such talented, interesting, same-but-different artists in a room together, they’re bound to cook up a storm. I hope you’ll come have a taste of what we’ve made when the time comes to share.

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