COVID MOONS. Written and directed by Claire Stopford. Additional contributions by Khathu Ramabulana. With Nicol Steyn and Sipumziwe Luqwaba. Music by Charl Clayton. Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre. Riebeek Kasteel.
KAREN RUTTER reviews
One cannot imagine a more appropriate production to launch the brand new summer season of shows at the Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre in Riebeek Kasteel. Covid Moons, written and directed by Claire Stopford (with contributions by Khathu Ramabulana) is so very much a product of our extraordinary time. And its specific setting, in an outdoor theatre, extends that trope.
The isolation and distance we were – and still are – feeling since the first shocking days of pandemic lockdown are encapsulated in this two-hander which explores both the physical and psychological effects. This remove is echoed in the very way audiences must be seated – with space separating each other – and in Mark Graham-Wilson’s stylishly minimalistic set. Even the actors are split apart from each other.
Trapped by lockdown
Covid Moons is set in an upmarket block of flats in Cape Town. Trapped by lockdown, Magda (Nicol Steyn) and Lufuno (Sipumziwe Luqwaba) are in adjoining apartments, able to communicate with each other only while on their respective balconies. She’s a student, something of a free spirit, prone to dancing in her underwear under a full moon. He’s an advertising copywriter, sassy and somewhat slick, good at mixing drinks. Magda is alone because her flatmates have all gone (home, one assumes), but she has her reasons not to want to stay with her Dad. Lufuno came to Cape Town for a job interview, and is being hosted by his prospective new company while they iron out employment details.
Each has a circle of friends or family that they communicate with via cell (with nice use of video showcasing a cast that includes Stopford herself, Sanda Shandu, Marcel van Heerden and Antoinette Kellerman, amongst others); but as we all know, it’s not the same as human contact. So when Lufuno catches Magda doing one of her moon dances on the patio, they start talking. And tentative contact develops into more resonant communication as the pressures of their private lives become shared.
Clever way to open a special venue
Both Nicol Steyn and Sipumziwe Luqwaba are wonderful to watch, at home in their skins and easily credible as their respective characters. They work fluidly together, creating a warm rapport even while keeping to their own spaces. And I loved how saxophonist Charl Clayton, sitting nearby under a tree, spliced together the various scenes with his evocative solo runs (I caught snatches of Suikerbossie, and Manenberg, and Misty, and more. Lovely).
A thought-provoking and tender reflection on a period we are still living through, with all its fears and uncertainties – but also, perhaps ironically so, its potential for connection. A very clever way to open this special new venue.
PS We were hosted overnight at the funky Red Tin Roof, a guesthouse and restaurant/pub in Riebeek Kasteel. It’s a great place to stay, with decor that runs from Chinese Maoist posters to Tretchikoff copies, a cool shady patio, and comfy bedrooms. Really nice.
What: Royal Arts Town Amphitheatre (RATA)
Where and when: Royal Hotel, Riebeek Kasteel from 18 November until April 2021
Read more: About the venue
Full programme and bookings: https://artstown.co.za/venue/royal-arts-town-amphitheatre/