Provocative dance piece has “audience members twisting in their seats” at the Berkeley in Toronto
In Hatched (playing as part of Spotlight South Africa), creator Mamela Nyamza confronts the audience. She hungers; she accuses; she explains; she spites; she learns; she rejects; she implores. Through dance, movement and brief moments of interaction, she explores her own story as a dancer, a mother and an African. She invites us to peer into her soul, just a little bit.
Now, fair warning: this is an uppercase-D Dance show. At one point, a dancer crosses the stage topless, en pointe, balancing a bucket on her head and strewing clothespins everywhere. If that description is making you queasy, you may want to avoid this one. But as someone who normally has trouble plugging into dance, I found I really warmed to Nyamza’s frank, honest, thoughtful and—occasionally—brutal performance. If you can get past the Dance label and connect with the performer, Hatched is a profoundly interesting and rewarding experience.
And if you’re already predisposed to enjoy dance and movement, well, you lucky duck: get yourself to the Berkeley, pronto.
For most of the piece, we really watch two shows simultaneously. Nyamza goes to considerable lengths to show, amongst other things, the agonies of her personal journey. The effect is often discomforting and oppressive, with a great many audience members twisting in their seats, clutching their armrests, muttering to companions and mouthing the words “oh my god.” But as she does this, she offers an alternative: off to the side, a male figure (Amkele Mandla) paints a seascape on an easel. If her performance is too much for you to bear, with her contortions and twitching and looks of desperation, feel free to simply look at him instead.
She dares you.
Her story is important, and her insight is often stunningly clear: for a festival which is expressly about breaking solitude, much of what she has to say rings true across continents and cultures. But it’s the personal angles on this piece — the invitation to defy the artist, to tune her out, to read it all as merely literal, or merely silly, or merely indulgent, and the way that these opportunities plug back into her narrative and performance — that really impressed me.
It’s difficult to describe this show further without spoiling moments of important surprise, but I will fawn briefly over the design. The gown-cum-mosquito-net is a gorgeous touch, as is the clothespin tutu which is itself a recurring motif. The lighting is a singular accomplishment: sit up straight and pay attention at the very beginning, or you’ll miss the best effect in the show.
I loved it all. I lapped it up, and hours later I’m still turning it over in my head. This one’s going to be with me for awhile.
- Hatched plays through April 19, 2015 at the Berkeley Street Theatre Upstairs (26 Berkeley, near King and Parliament) as part of the Spotlight South Africa festival.
- Tickets run $24 to $39; discounts are available for subscriptions.
- Tickets can be purchased online (scroll to bottom of page), by phone at 416.368.3110, or in-person at the box office. Advance purchase is strongly recommended.
- While this show is appropriate for all ages, young children may not find the subject matter to be of interest. Be advised that this production features brief moments of nudity.
- This show’s venue is not wheelchair-accessible, and patrons must climb two flights of stairs to reach it.
Photograph of Mamela Nyamza (right) by John Hogg. Photo is of an earlier production, and the staging has been slightly altered.