By Melissa Cohen
For many years many people (including myself) have been oblivious to the realities that are affecting earth, and essentially us as humans. Mike Van Graan’s latest work focuses on issues that are seldom addressed at the theatre and which, after seeing this piece, sparked underlying “PANIC!” in my mind.
This one-man performance is a thought-provoking way of exposing the harsh realities of our planet and the people that live on it. Van Graan wrote the piece, handed it over to director Heinrich Reisenhofer and popular actor Siv Ngesi and then stepped away. “Mike really gave us the freedom to change things and make the piece our own”, discusses Reisenhofer during our meeting in between his busy rehearsal schedule.
This piece has provided Reisenhofer and especially Ngesi with a challenge as they are more familiar with the comedic side of performance. (Reisenhofer of late has been directing some of the country’s hottest comedic talents like Conrad Koch and Stuart Taylor and of course the stage phenomenon that is ‘Joe Barber’.) “This really has not been an easy process, but I believe in the piece and the importance of the project, so that’s what has helped me succeed,” describes the enthusiastic Ngesi.
‘Panic’ is a poetic monologue and is essentially a mental discussion taking place in the mind of Ngesi’s character, Thando Molepo.
Thando is the son of a BEE oil millionaire who, although one would presumably think would be happy living the extravagant life he leads, constantly questions his life and the lives of others living in harsh conditions around him. “This play is extremely important as it provides the audience with the opportunity to think about the things that matter most in their lives”, argues Ngesi.
Reisenhofer has contrasted the poetic monologue, otherwise named “Word Art” by Van Graan, with filmic images and powerful bursts of melodic tunes in order to bring the piece to life.
These aesthetic elements are designed to leave a lasting impression on the audience. “This piece is extremely complex to work with as Mike uses a lot of imagery which is portrayed through words rather than actions. I think that ‘Panic’ is able to discuss issues that are able to reflect the outside world through the use of language and poetry”, mentions Reisenhofer.
The vibrant and witty Ngesi mentions that he finds his character Thando to be a more complex role than he has previously performed. “‘Panic’ is a metaphor of the seven days of creation, and instead is contrasted with seven days in the life of Thando as he deals with the slow death of his mother.
This death is in conversation with the death and destruction facing our planet and this performance discusses Thando’s grieving process”, says the actor.
Ngesi mentioned that although admittedly he is not a “green freak”, he has started to appreciate the food he eats, the life he leads and the people who surround him. “If you love someone you must tell them.
Never leave it until it’s too late. Thando takes these things for granted, until one day it is too late and he doesn’t get the opportunity to say goodbye to his mother. This helped me put my own life into perspective.”
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