Little Foot is eerie and intriguingJennifer de Klerk
Jennifer de Klerk: After seeing this eerie play I don’t think I’ll be going down into the caves in the Cradle of Humankind again in a hurry!
Visually it is stunning, a kaleidoscope of light and dark. Lighting designs highlight misty green ferns in a prehistoric forest and draw gargoyle faces out of textured rocks in a modern-day cave. One of the most effective scenes is played in the dark, lit only by the flaring of a cigarette butt.
Wind whines through the sinkholes, sounding like voices in torment a long time ago, heads probe and creatures undulate, the ancestors of mankind emerging like hallucinations from the stone, a rocky outcrop centre stage – entrance, backdrop, altar …
Who was Little Foot, what was he? How did he live, how did he die? What was he fleeing three millions years ago that left his body, head on arm, fossilised in the rock for us to find?
Movement conjures up what might have been as the ape-like hominids in effective masks, fluid in their dance, act out the hunt, bringing to life the terror and the despair. Haunting images these …
The hominids in their search for light, identity and understanding contrast starkly with the modern day as a group of students prepare to spend New Year’s Eve underground. It’s a reunion of sorts, a dysfunctional group of old friends, or rather, as we discover, enemies.
In the dark, surrounded by weight of the years, their inner beasts erupt into bitterness and violence.
Powerful stuff and playwright Craig Higginson makes the most of it, while director Malcolm Purkey bridges the gaps and designer Neil Coppen provides the eerie awesomeness of the rocky setting.
The modern interplay is almost dwarfed by the surroundings. Although central to the protagonists, it becomes minimalized by the setting. Perhaps this is deliberate.
To my mind, the modern ensemble needs more work, more polish to bring out the nuances of the characters. At times movements were stilted and the pace lagged.
The piece is held together by Dylan Nicol Horley as the charismatic, manipulative and haunted Wizard and Jenna Dunster as Coco. Her fresh breezy approach is natural and appealing and she manages the complex exposition she is given – Little Foot and the necessary background and history – with an easy directness.
Moby (Glen Biderman-Pam) and Braai (Khayelihle Dominique Gumede) are less convincing. We are told who they are, but their performances need more definition.
Phumzile Sitole is refreshing as the necessary outsider, the innocent observer of the tortured group.
This is a layered, intriguing and thought-provoking script that has been turned into an incredibly powerful piece of theatre, but I believe it has the potential to be even more.
On the intellectual level it raises all kinds of questions and parallels, a tale that can be delved, debated and uncovered endlessly – parking lot discussions were already in progress after the show.
Was it the right ending? Should redemption be possible? Have we learnt anything over the last three million years?
Little Foot, written by Craig Higginson, directed by Malcolm Purkey, designed by Neil Coppen, lighting design by Tina Leroux is at the Market Theatre until August 19.
Jennifer de Klerk is editor of Artslink.co.za
Market Theatre Complex, Newtown Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa