By Vincent Meyburgh
Excitement fills the Muizenberg, Methodist church hall. Our transformation ritual is underway. Chairs are being positioned to face the stage. Lights are being hung and focused. The Jungle Theatre banner is tied up outside at the gate. The church hall is becoming a theatre. A theatre especially for children. Today the children are the stars of the show. It’s late November 2019. Five performing arts clubs are on their way. Thanks to our funders for 2019, DG Murray Trust, National Lotteries Commission and The Learning Trust. Jungle Theatre artists have been running performing arts clubs with children between 8 and 13 years of age. These artists have engaged with schools in the area’s where they live, getting the teachers to see the value of the work, bringing African folktales alive with the groups and performing as part of school events. Today all that energy and ongoing commitment with the children over the entire year will come together in the 2019 Jungle Drama Club Festival. Mini buses packed with children and their parents from Khayelitsha, Westlake and Vrygrond are on their way to Muizenberg.
120 children fill up the theatre space. The lights go purple and the first act begins. Glasses turned into fantastical animal masks, voices in harmony singing a folktale narrative, colourful tie dyed onesies, expressive emotional movement and dance. Each group weaves their unique interpretation as all the other groups, parents, siblings and friends are transfixed in the audience. This event is beautiful, exciting, heart-warming and it’s only the cherry on the top. All through the year the artists have been working in pairs with their groups of children. They told them an African folktale, opened up discussions about the meaning of the story and how it relates to their lives, conducted improvisation games that opened up the children’s creativity, recording their input and giving it back to them. Collaboratively developing a unique theatre performance with the children. All along the way dealing with interpersonal issues by encouraging discussion, sharing, kindness, gratitude and empathy. Building relationships with teachers and parents when needed and taking part in community events. Now all this work culminates with this performance. We have an interval. Everybody gets lunch. The children enjoy a performance by the artists who have been mentoring them. The event draws to a close. All go home. We start dreaming about next year.
Our funding for 2019 has expired. We are looking for individual donations so we can keep running these clubs in 2020. What do you say? Shall we keep these artists employed? Shall we keep these children creative? You decide.