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Durban University of Technology’s Drama and Production Studies pushes new boundaries with Genbia Hyla’s exciting new work 05978321. This powerful visually spectacular production enjoyed its world premiere this year at the 2012 Grahamstown National Arts Student Theatre Festival, a fitting international arena for a new South African work that echoes globally. The work alluded to by Auld as “powerful, relevant, complex” in production takes on what Auld asserts has the feeling of a classic yet resembles a surrealist painting.

Genbia Hyla’s 05978321 or Numbered! is to be performed by the DUT: Department of Drama and Production Studies 2012 final year students. The work, directed by Thembalethu ‘Proh’ Nqumako under the directorial eye of Prof. Deborah Arlene Lutge, cleverly weaves between a series of complicated events. First, there is a crime witnessed during a peacekeeping mission in Burundi in 2001 and a consequent Court Martial. A decade later the witness commits a murder and murders the alleged murderer in the Burundi Court Martial. Although written by KwaZulu born playwright Genbia Hyla the landscape of the play is global and insinuates any army. The work will be presented for a week at the DUT Courtyard Theatre from 17 – 21 July commencing at 6 p.m.

There are a number of anomalies that surface in the script which make this play internationally competitive. First, the playwright is specific in all details from costuming to set to make-up allowing a solid conceptual collaboration between all the elements. Second, the work does not explicitly set the landscape in a particular area, affording the work a wider application. Third, the director may choose whether the legal teams are the same characters or different characters as the trials are 10 years apart. Nqumako attempted to portray that the legal teams, although they remain the same, are operational in different court system by changing the Judges: the former being a man, the latter a woman. Fourth, the defence of ‘automatism’ allows the audience to determine whether: automatism is a manufactured defence; a condition really suffered by the defendant; or a condition originally brought in as a defence that the appellant imbibes, finally believing the automatism to be true. Fifth, in the story-line there are three systems of justice: military; judicial; ethical. Sixth, the suicide at the end may interpret as a suggesting of ‘orgasmic gasping’ or suicide, or national brutalization. Finally the plot could be viewed as a set of memories from inside the central protagonist’s brain; a flashback film strip running in the dying moments of the central protagonist’s life; or an actual sequence of significant events – the only ones we remember. In the latter’s case Hyla alludes to the fact that history remembers only highlights and events with significant consequences, therefore these are the only recorded moments that have longevity.

Conceptually the work presents itself as a collage of scenes set in an armour-plated world evolved from the scrap heap, and mechanized by conditioned responses, with android figures crossing in and out of spaces within frameworks and boundaries. The script includes strong visual representation with masks, horns, skulls, grids, metal rods, armour-plated desks, uniforms, make-up resembling peeling metal that all takes the play into an alternate cyberspace world. The scenes allow for ingenuity and flexibility in the direction with the play making strong suggestions. Nqumako says: “Lutge has used these moments to demonstrate how using props in intricate detail add value and directorial interpretation”.

One of the greatest challenges has been sourcing the items with which to construct the props, costumes and set. In this regard the Drama and Production Studies Department set about constructing, with the support of “Chicks” Scrap Metal, a moving art work from scrap metal and old set pieces encouraging students to opt for ‘sustainable living’ elements. Mthandazo Mofokeng as Technical Director has been responsible for taking charge of the set construction working long hours to realize Hyla’s vision. Pamela Tancsik assisted students to apply the make-up wizardry of Luke O’Gorman who gave life to the Hyla make-up concept. Many of the songs are original with cast-director teams working together to finalize the melodies. These compositions have invested the project with further innovative design and allowed for an involvement embraced by all participants in this production. As the Drama students all are due to complete their studies by October 2012 the cast and director intend to use this production to showcase their work in an industry where creating your own work is sometimes the key to employment. Therefore any theatre practitioners able to offer alternative performance spaces after October are encouraged to contact the Department of Drama and Production Studies in order to establish contact with the director. This adults only production, showcases a work of great promise, and may be seen at the Courtyard Theatre from 17-21 July 2012 nightly at 6 p.m. R35.00 tickets are available at the door.

For more information please contact:

Prof. Deborah Arlene Lutge
Associate Professor: Drama Studies
Head of Department: Drama & Production Studies
Faculty of Arts & Design
Durban University of Technology
PO Box 1334 Durban 4000 South Africa
Tel: +27 31 3732199 Fax: +27 31 3732820

Issued by:

Naledi Hlefane
Division of Corporate Affairs
Durban University of Technology