The Baxter Theatre has always been special to me & not just because it was my (nerdy) choice of bunking spots when I was studying at UCT (well, when I could scrape some money together for a discounted student ticket), but I’ve always kind of been awe of people who can act, dance or sing. To be talented has & will always mesmerize me.
For me the magic in theatre is that every day, the cast has to put their lives on pause and for weeks on end, put on the same performance, night after night, with the same gusto as if it’s opening night. Imagine that. I really don’t know how they do it or how they keep it up.
On a personal note, I always wanted to do ballet growing up but I was told that I couldn’t join the class when I was in primary school (I’d switched schools) but I’ll park that for another post…
The grandeur of The Baxter Theatre (source)
So you can imagine my delight when I was presented with tickets to see a show at The Baxter on a recent surprise weekend to Cape Town. Truth be told when I found out it didn’t really matter what we were seeing. There’s something about the Baxter Theatre that even 10 after years of living in Jozi, feels comfortable, easy and homely.
I couldn’t write this post without saying that I think the Baxter (turning 36 this year by the way) is just beautiful, especially at night with the lights on. I’m not an “arty/creative” person (let’s face it, I’m just not that cool) but I do think it’s quite sad that we (myself included) don’t value the arts in SA when it’s so affordable and accessible compared to abroad where the theatre really is only within reach of the rich.
Anyway, I digress. We went to see Hayani, a two-man performance by Nathaniel Ramabulana and Atandwa Kani, John Kani’s son as you may have guessed and you can see so much of John in Atandwa’s features. Hayani means “home” in Venda, I found out after the show. The Golden arrow studio is intimate & we sit close up centre, towards the front. The stories shared by these two from Limpopo & Port Elizabeth respectively are deeply personal. We go back to their childhoods and we get to know their parents, siblings and the quirky characters that colour their neighbourhoods.
In the hour and half follows, they take on what feels like a dozen or more characters, telling stories of life in Jozi and inevitably, of going home. Each character is played with such conviction down to the facial expressions and body language that I’m amazed they’re effortlessly able to switch to the next one literally in the blink of an eye. Their descriptions of Thohoyandou and New Brighton are so vivid & colourful, though I haven’t been to either in my life, that when they tell the story, I feel like I am there. And when they paint scenes of catching a taxi home from Jozi CBD (ironically, my current home & a place I’ve made no bones about being just a tad bias about to), I can smell it & imagine they chaos of the taxi rank and I ache to catch a glimpse of what
the my city looked like just a few decades ago in person…
Nat Ramabulana and Atandwa Kani in Hayani (source)
While Jozi became my home much later in life, Hayani made me think of all the “orphans” like me that this city has adopted and loved. It made me think about the fact that it’s so uncommon to meet someone who lives in Jozi and is from Jozi who was born here & grew up here without a stint somewhere else. It always takes me aback a little on the rare occasion that I do meet them. You know that conversation when you’re asking someone where home is and you have to clarify that you mean “home-home”…
Hayani has not only made reignited my love for the theatre but for Jozi & all the people I’ve met in the decade I’ve been here, who have made this their new home. I’m spoilt to live within a 3 km radius from 3 brilliant theatres in Jozi: The Market Theatre, Joburg Theatre & POPArt and I’ve made myself the promise to go more. I’m on track so far having been to the Joburg Theatre last week to see the Starlight Express (great for kids). This week I’m off to watch some ballet at the SA Ballet Theatre as part of the Joburg City Festival – I hope I can keep this up. As my friend Rozanne always says, let’s #supportthearts
Hayani is on at the Baxter Theatre and runs until the 31st August when it moves onto The Market Theatre from the 18th of September to the 27th of October.