The voice bellowed from Florida’s forgotten kraal, a lone bull heavily burdened by thoughts of man unspoken, strangers unheard and for far too long too un-artistic to be considered creatively. The resonant bellow became a sharp encoded call too piercing to go unheard by the ears of those trained in deciphering the priceless yet luxuriant syllables of po-e-try. On the 31st of July, we heard this call all the way from the slam at the Alliance Francaise (where I competed for my very 1st time**,) and hastily made our pilgrimage to Florida’s Promusica Theatre’s ‘The Basement’, not because this venue was the mecca of spoken word, by no means so, in fact this venue was so out of our lives GPS’ we became like planes circling the Bermuda’s hungry abyss. (Ironically, the boundaries of the infamous Bermuda Triangle cover the Straits of Florida.) WE CAME HERE TO LEND SPOKEN WORD OUR EARS, MINDS AND HEARTS, where were YOU?
The Promusica Theatre is situated on 100 Christiaan de Wet Rd (okay, maybe not so Bermuda like) and is, despite its out-worldly location, a resplendent venue adorned in matching simplicity. The fact that this young man, Donald “The Neosapien” Mokgale, travelled all the way from Ekhuruleni’s Benoni to acquire the venue was enough to raise my ‘respect bar’ a notch or two up. His pseudonym (Neosapien) is Darwin inspired; however, he believes he became a “New Human” after being spiritually born again, hence “Neo Sapien.” It isn’t always the artists’ fault that shows start an hour or two later then they ought to, in fact on this day, it could be attributed to a combination of two factors, the artists bad directions and the people’s “I know where I’m goin” attitude’s. Exhausted as a result of the competitive slam and dreary drive, I succumb to a beckoning chair at the front and ready myself for an entertaining one man ‘poetry with drama’ show.
I thought it would be fitting to begin by saying this; Donald is a Poet, a great and intelligent one at that. One who, post the show, went on to secure himself 2nd position at a 22 man Grand Slam competition held at Wits University. One, who had on months leading to the show, won the highly competitive “House of Hunger Poetry Slam,” twice. A great performer, such is the caliber of this young man. A poet many have grown to respect, love and revere. However, Don is not known for drama/acting, and luckily for him, the few people who had responded to his call were lovers of poetry (not drama) and would let slide any dramatic inadequacy’s that would show on his side. Donald’s poetry is dramatic enough in itself and made up for the minor acting flaws. Minor, depending on whether you came as one who thought John Kani was the greatest thing to hit the stage and Kgafela was ‘wack.’ This audience however was very satisfied with Donald’s first poetry play, some seemed disappointed that there weren’t more new poems delivered, but none showed dissatisfaction. None showed irritation even during the many breaks (Character changes) which seemed to last an eternity. Everyone seemed to know each other and continued with their conversations in the dimmed venue which only gained luminosity during Donald’s displays of wizardry. “Uyaloya saan!” (Meaning: you are a witch/wizard in zulu) shouted one gentleman after a poem titled “Poetic Punch.” An awkward compliment and depending on which language you speak, not a compliment at all. Such are linguistic dynamics. Something which further contributed to me not enjoying the lengthy breaks was the repetitive R & B music playing in the background.
At one point I almost got up to say, “Mr DJ you are killing me,” but right then, as if testing my patience, a figure exploded onto the stage to recapture my attention and challenge my intellect. The show lasted close to 2hrs, the character changes being the main culprits for the length. Donald spoke for the many silent voices, told ambitious tales of working hard pursuing corporate dreams with little reward. He sculpted steady figures from the perceptions of a drunkard, his opening poem a moving allegory of heartache. All of these voices were aptly represented in the title, “Thoughts of a Stranger.” How many people do you pass on a daily basis? Do you ever consider the circumstances of the poor, the widowed and the homeless? Do you ever ask yourself what goes on in the head of an unapologetic and unremorseful drunkard? Perhaps you’ve considered the raging thoughts of an adolescent who managed to carry his anger to adulthood without harming himself or anyone else? This play provided more than an insight into the minds of those around us, but was also a question pressing to be answered through action.
Donald has plans of getting this play to more platforms and ultimately more people. The dismal turnout was very disappointing considering this man’s brilliance and the number of people who claim to support him. Even more disappointing, is the fact that so many artists claim they are not being supported whilst they themselves are not there to support each other. We could grow art, especially poetry, if we kept it alive in the family, something like what Indians and Jews do in business. On a lighter note, do not wait for this man to blow up before you start supporting him. The next review will be on the Street Poets Art Factory (which Donald was a part of) which took place at TUT’s Magalies Lapa on the 21st of August 2010
To book Donald “The Neosapien” Mokgale for any performances, including corporate gigs/events and MCing, email him on: firstname.lastname@example.org