High praise for Pinelands High

Michael Williams, managing director of Cape Town Opera

Pinelands High School’s annual theatre offering was a welcome departure from the normal fare and provided the community with a stimulating and entertaining evening of absurd theatre.

Waiting, inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, was directed by the multi-talented Gabriella Bishop and explored the existence of a group of curious characters trapped in a nameless dark hole.

The play was workshopped by the young actors, who all provided text and monologues which Bishop deftly wove together, producing a profound meditation on memory, loss, and what it means to be human.

From the moment the audience was ushered through the dark, empty hall, up a ramp bordered with tea-light candles, passing through the curtains, everyone knew they were in for a special evening. And when the actors entered the atmospherically lit stage, dressed in period costume with provocative make-up (A big shout-out to the make-up and lighting teams!) we were spell-bound by the strange world unfolding before our eyes.

The individual performances of all 15 young actors were uniformly excellent.

They all seemed hot-wired to each other, producing a level of ensemble playing seldom seen on professional stages.

Led by Wyat Afrika, as the mysterious Mr Giddy, they never left the stage for the duration of the play, singing, dancing and acting, displaying skills in mime and physical theatre with a level of concentration way beyond their years.

With a minimal use of props, the cast shared glimpses of their past lives, which was at times poignant and funny. I particularly enjoyed the “Tower of Babel” created with stools, the Greek chorus moments and the beautiful song sung by Liphelo Matthews, Onela Masiu and Nonceba Radebe.

Pinelands High School principal Dave Campbell, Gabriella Bishop and her formidably talented cast are to be congratulated for daring to present such a challenging evening of theatre and pulling it off with such aplomb.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this cast of young actors wins the Best Fringe Play at next year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.