Beauty Remained…Complex and Defiant
By Thobile Maphanga
Last night’s Legacy programme featured Robin Orlin’s Beauty remained for just a minute then returned gently to her starting position. A work that touches on many aspects of modern day living, beginning with our obsession with beauty and perfection all the way to our treatment of the planet and the exoticisation of tourism and therefore cultures.
Although this work premiered in 2012, what feels like centuries ago, it becomes an intriguing thought provoker for current times. Many have suggested that Covid-19 is Mother Nature’s way of making us stop and reflect, giving the planet a gap to catch its breath in this human waged war against it, this work seems perfectly apt for this moment of contemplation.
Costumes designed by Marianne Fassler incorporate plastic in its various forms. A beautiful gown is made of plastic woven carrier bags so prevalent in South African inner cities, where amagoduka carry them on their long travels from and to their rural homes, or venders use to carry their wares. Woven black plastic and black plastic bags are used similarly in other pieces.
Orlin and Moving into Dance Maphatong’s (MIDM) Johannesburg grit are stamped all over the performance in their use of tsotsi taal and fast footwork that you might come across at the Bree Street rank, a strong Jozification occurring. This further situates us in the inner city where many, of the European persuasion, might be afraid to go but so intrigued to see. So, our wonderful Tourguide/Auctioneer takes us on what could be just that, an expedition into the jungle that is deep dark South Africa.
The morning is marked by chickens stalking the stage in a waltz like time signature, a focus on legs and screens that creates a kaleidoscopic feeling of the morning light hitting shiny surfaces. A bossy Beauty interrupts to clean up the scene, “no chicken feathers here” as she directs the sun into just the perfect position. There is no fourth wall in this work, everyone is both audience and performer even the technical crew that is often forgotten. Soundscape and scenes are enhanced by and reliant on the audience participation that is carefully mediated and directed by our Beauty.
The expression “everything but the kitchen sink” comes to mind in this comical performance as everything from conversations with God, sex, exploitation, and even lions are thrown into the mix. A remarkable use of everyday objects, language, movement, and set is crafted to encapsulate the human desire to control what we so deeply cannot, like the setting of the sun.