- The absurdist play allowed a small audience to gently return to live theatre
- The live performance explored themes that are related to absurdist ideas
Awil College’s Class of 2021 proved that they are about to take the industry by storm after performing their play titled “136 Avenue” to the delight of the small audience at their graduation ceremony in Gaborone over the weekend.
Directed by Jessica Lejowa and Marang Selolwane, 136 Avenue is an absurdist medley of various performance styles and design concepts with reference to notable playwrights in political and historical contexts.
“The play is the culmination of countless weeks of preparation and sleepless nights on campus and eureka moments by cast members and directors,” cast member and actor, Tebogo Reteng, told Time Out on behalf of her colleagues Lisa Phenyo, Annah Ketlareng, Jessica Kelebemang, Naomi Mart and Queen Garekwe.
Set in three cages in an outdoor setup at the college campus, the live performance explored themes that are related to absurdist ideas around being stuck, existentialist crisis, repetitive themes in life, not being able to resolve issues, not being able to move forward and having the same kinds of challenges over and over again.
The idea of the cages came together based on the topics on each of the three pieces which feature a couple that is stuck in a toxic relationship. A hitman scene in another cage is stuck with a job that never seems to happen while the sisters in yet another scene are stuck in a job doing menial work for a particular madam.
Said the play’s director, Lejowa: “The cages speak to the idea of being stuck and the couple’s scene theme is childhood ideals, dreams and fun times which are a little bit contradictory to what the narrative is communicating.
“Similarly, the boxes in the downstairs scene have to do with the packaging of bodies, identities, employee benefits and so forth. The set downstairs, even though their apartment complex is so old and dilapidated, there is still some semblance of dreams.”
While the play received a standing ovation, playwright for radio and TV and English teacher at Maruapula School Tlotlego Gaogakwe pointed out that absurdist theatre is challenging but the cast members rose to the challenge. He said it was particularly joyous to witness the play as it was the first live performance since the pandemic.
“You were able to access the script adequately in order to translate it to the audience,” Gaogakwe said. “With absurdist theatre, audiences can sit there and not know what is happening but you allowed them to access what you were doing onstage.”
Gaogakwe concluded: “You were able to portray how our existence is going to be like, being trapped if you think about the climate crisis, leadership, politics and government. Good satire and absurdist theatre demand of the audience to think of where we are and possibly how we can re-imagine our future, and you did a good job.”