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Brett Bailey’s Samson

Third World Bunfight’s newest production, Samson, is a sensuous, poetic and thought-provoking dance-music-theatre piece set in a dystopian contemporary context of political extremism, inequality, human displacement and violence. Creative Feel spoke to writer, designer and director Brett Bailey to find out a bit more.

Brett Bailey Samson dance music theatre
Luthando ‘Toto’ Tsodo as Samson PHOTO Nardus Engelbrecht

Beyond the violence and the heroics of Samson, the central theme is loss: of home, of self, of faith, of so much fragile beauty to the blind forces of avarice. Brett Bailey’s interpretation of the biblical myth brings the tale crashing into the 21st century, and orders it within his concerns around migration, intolerance, colonialism, and oppressive capitalist policies, and draws on his fascination with shamanism, ritual, the repressed and the non-rational. Bailey has figured Samson, the character, as an avatar for the repressed rage of those people that have been trampled by expansionist forces for centuries.
     Choreography is by one of South Africa’s most celebrated dancer-choreographers, Vincent Mantsoe, whose shamanic spiritual orientation infuses his work. The live electronic music score is by award-winning South African jazz and electronic musician-composer Shane Cooper, performed onstage by a four-piece outfit.
     The cast of ten includes Luthando ‘Toto’ Tsodo as Samson, Hlengiwe Mkhwanazi as Delilah, and Apollo Ntshoko, Jonno Sweetman, Mapumba Cilombo, Mikhaela Kruger, Monde Abey Xakwe, Shane Cooper, Wiseman Sithole and Zanele Mbizo.

Creative Feel: Once again, you have taken a mythical saga, in this case from the Bible, and put it into a contemporary setting. In what way do you feel this tale can teach us lessons about what is happening in South Africa – and the world – today?
Brett Bailey: One can unpack the myth in so many ways. I have read many vastly different rabbinical and Christian interpretations. I sat with the tale for around 18 months, trying to figure out what it wanted to say through me. It was often harrowing – the Samson myth is not clear at all – I almost threw in the towel several times.
     In a nutshell, I feel it reminds us that those who have power, and who brutally exploit and oppress those that they have subjugated, should not be surprised when the oppressed rise up with apocalyptic violence and destroy the whole system: an eye for an eye. A very timely reminder right now, both here and around the world.

To read the rest of our interview with Brett Bailey, purchase the May 2019 issue of Creative Feel or, to continue supporting our role in the South African arts and culture sector, subscribe to our monthly magazine from only R180.00 per year. SUBSCRIBE HERE!

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