“Listen with your eyes” is the instruction. Is FTH:K asking a lot?
The aim of this award-winning deaf and hearing theatre company is to integrate the deaf community into South Africa’s performing arts industry, by staging pieces where very little of the story is communicated by words. In OfficeBLOCK all verbal communication is stripped out. What is left are four very different people on various levels of the corporate ladder, and we watch as their story unfolds through nuanced body language and facial expressions.
Not distracted by words one can truly focus on the subtle gestures of a woman (Asanda Rilityana) who is two butt pinches away from killing her boss. One can see as the friendly and eager new guy (Sinethemba Mgebisa) evolves into a sexually harassing member of Boys Club. And one definitely doesn’t need to hear a monologue of the flashy boss (Christopher Beukes) who’s every move is planned to draw more attention to himself. The only character who is not really affected by the silence is the somewhat depressed loner (Marlon Snyders) who simply sighs his way through the motions of yet another day in the office.
With touches of high comedy balanced with the stark realities of abuse and sidelining, OfficeBLOCK portrays an utterly recognisable scenario. The fact that the people on stage are deaf is utterly irrelevant to the story or to the means of telling it, and yet the fluidity of their movement as a team, their to-the-millisecond timings of cues and reactions is all the more impressive. This is not mime, this is dance. And it is breathtaking.
In fact, the vignettes making up OfficeBLOCK are punctuated by short dance scenes with choreography by Gali Kumwimba, and throughout the show the air pumps with music, from Dave Brubeck jazz to the theme tune from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
The unlikely enduring fifth character is the water cooler. The water cooler sees all and knows all the secrets of this particular world. Even though it is an integral part of the office culture it is never truly part of it. In one of the most beautiful scenes ever to take place on the Baxter’s Golden Arrow stage, the water cooler cries over the dysfunctional corporate culture that has destroyed every one a part of it.
Jana van Heerden
FTH:K’s OfficeBLOCK runs in the Golden Arrow Studio of the Baxter Theatre until 21 July 2012.
To find out more about FTH:K, go to www.fthk.co.za
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