Although Kidcasino! debuted last year in the Arena section of the festival, 2017’s theme of “disrupting” still strongly speaks to #NAF18’s theme of “voices and silences”. This work is brash, loud and in your face. You will not know what to do with the unapologetic energy being given to you. But when you encounter it, the best advice for you is to sit through it and listen. This is definitely a story worth telling and a story worth hearing.
As we walk into the theatre we are greeted by Douglas Greed’s upbeat “When a man sings on a track” and a dimly lit stage. However, it does not resemble the club scene one might imagine, but rather an ominous situation you do not want to find yourself in. The stage is hidden behind fabric covered flats and there is a sense of uncertainty. Toni Morkel’s direction makes the audience uncomfortable and nervous from the get-go and this feeling of emptiness and fear is continued to the very end. The piece becomes a foreshadowing of the future of the world. A world where no one is safe, where there is no self-control and everything falls into a pit of beautiful chaos.
Under Morkel’s direction, Pombo and Barnard return to their popular absurdist performance style to take on the roles of children who are left to run wild in the Sun Star Casino, who are then overtaken by greed, the ‘lights’ and the burning desire to win, win, win!
We are left feeling vulnerable and defenceless as the children become little monsters who are so ‘jazzed up’ on sugar that they start spiralling into a frenzy of violence. Kidcasino! carries a primal energy within its characters from the beginning to the end. They are hunting, stalking and losing their humanity all at the same time. And although I could say it is a hunt for money, sweets and arcade tokens, the work definitely carries something more.
I spent the entire piece confused. Not confused by what was on stage but by the reality of the story being told. The honesty and truthfulness of this piece is its greatest strength. “This is a narrative close to us, it’s a narrative we have experience with and it’s a narrative we feel needs to be told,” said Pombo. “I think it’s important to dig into and critique the ugliness of whiteness and whiteness not as a racial thing but as a mindset,” added Barnard. And this conviction is evident in the way they carry the piece.
KidCasino! is without a doubt a provocative piece of work you will not be able sit still through. You will not be comfortable. You will not feel good. But you definitely will be in awe of the work presented by the amazing Pombo and the incredible talent that is Barnard. Kidcasino! is without a doubt definitely a piece worth watching.
Watch Kidcasino! on 1 July at 16:30, 2 July at 18:30, 4 July at 20:30, 5 July at 12:30,6 July at 16:30 at Masonic Front.
By Toby Ngomane