It all began with two encounters – a fictional encounter, complicated by a peculiarly South African issue. And an encounter on a real-life level, which brought about a “mingling of different colours”.Two students, who were no more than acquaintances before, had to work intimately together this month to create a piece of physical theatre about a relationship between two characters. But not just any two people. 56 Mocha Street follows the tensions between an interracial couple.
Emma Tollman and Oupa Lesne Sibeko, 3rd year Drama, choreographed the piece based on their own experiences.
The two characters encounter one another in 56 Mocha Street, their home and space. Here they delve into the tensions between how society perceives interracial relationships and how they perceive themselves after being affected by society, said Sibeko.
Apart from the obvious racial tensions – between their characters and, potentially, the two of them – the actors described what it was like to have to work together for the first time. “I remember doing a back-to-back improvisation and Oupa’s body felt so foreign to me,” said Tollman.
How the piece was created
In creating the piece, the two took inspiration from their physical theatre class. It was about discovering “who we are in the class, personally and in the relationship”, said Sibeko. The name 56 Mocha Street uses the metaphor of coffee to describe “the mingling of different colours”, with Emma as a white female and Oupa a black male. The piece explores the intricacies of gender fights, and facing one another head-on.The two use the idea of play and using their bodies to take on the spaces in which they find themselves. Through this, they explore the idea of encounters further.
What is the piece about?
“It’s a vicious cycle of disconnection, finding each other and losing each other,”
The piece depicts an intensely tragic relationship, “Its a vicious cycle of disconnection,finding each other and losing each other” ,said Tollman. She described the journey through Mocha Street as different from that of a more conventional theater. In this piece, “there is a disillusion of time, a flood of happenings. We are always just happening, we can’t control keeping on.”
The piece was created through a process of “play”, during which the two noticed that material “kept happening”. Through this material and their movements, they have found a story.
56 Mocha Street will be on show at the Wits Downstairs theater on August 26 and 29.