Tomorrow is the day! It’s been over a year since I first approached South African director Thando Doni with the idea to create a NO/SA production together, and finally, it is ready to meet the world at the amazing Cradle of Creativity festival in Cape Town, the largest African theatre festival for Children & Young People!
Phefumla (To Breathe) is developed through a devised process with four young men from the township areas surrounding Cape Town. All four have been involved or affected by the gang culture that rules the streets.
Through glimpses of their childhood, fragments of good and bad memories, we slowly puzzle the pieces of their young lives together. The performance reveals both fatal choices as well as well-hidden dreams and hopes for the future.
The play is built on the individual stories of the young performers. Their personal experiences is transformed into dramatic text, visual and physical imagery and choreographies, built from their own cultural language.
Director Thando describes the performance in these words:
In xhosa, the words for breath (phefumla ) and soul (umphefumlo) are connected.
My culture says that what creates a person, what makes a person alive, is the breath. As long as the breath is in the body, the soul is present. The moment the breath stops, the soul disappears. What makes a person for us, is the soul within the breath. Us, as we are, we are breath. And breathing is supposed to be easy, even unconscious. But growing up in the townships of South Africa, with the inheritage of Apartheid and racism, it rarely feels like that. In our lives, breathing are made difficult. The space and the environment we are in, suffocates us.
We often feel like we don’t really have the space for our souls to breathe, to live, to be free.
The world of Phefumla is reality as we know it, portraying the dust that we come from. The cast are telling their stories of everyday struggle. As director of Phefumla , I have tried to find stories of how the stains of history and poverty remains with us. The suffocation lies within the fear that no matter how hard we try to move away from our labels and history, parts of it always follows us.
The marks remain. And how do we then live? When do we get to move on?
Do we ever?