24 March 2005

Slaughter City

A Gothic Thriller
The power of the worker to rise above the system.
The power of the past to change the future.
And the power of desire to make us embrace what we fear most.
Everything from race to women's rights to the politics of sex...

Set in an abattoir, the play explores the interactions of the workers and their managers surrounding an impending strike. The play is also framed by the mysterious character of Cod - a young worker with strange links to the past history of labour struggles, who is continually in conflict with an enigmatic soul known only as the Sausage Man. Neither alive nor dead, man nor woman, by his very presence Cod turns all the assumptions the slaughterhouse workers hold on their heads, and unleashes desires the numbed employees never imagined they would feel again.

The play is written in a style that combines hard-hitting realism with Brechtian expressionism, so that the characters are both real people existing in a concrete place and time, and symbols' of the struggles between labourers and capitalists, men and women, blacks and whites.

The performance space takes the form of an installation combining paintings, puppets and video montage, in and around which the performance takes shape and is experienced
The 'Sausage Man' is a life sized minotaur-like puppet, created in amazing detail by Diek Grobler, from its skeletal body down to the hoof-like stilts the actor has to walk on.

It was written by Naomi Wallace, who grounded the play in the reality of a much publicized 1992 strike against Fischer Packing Company in Louisville, USA. Certain incidents leading up to the strike, including the death of a worker who inhaled ammonia fumes, made their way into the drama. But this production was given a decidedly South African flavour - kudu horns for the sausage man, singing, gumboot dancing and toi-toiing.

Unfortunately, I only saw the production after some technical problems had forced them to move it to a much smaller venue with less than a day's notice. It couldn't have been easy for the cast and crew, but they still managed to pull it off, and the actors are masterful as they mime the cutting and boning of meat at their abattoir work stations.

I would have loved to see it as it was meant to be, with the actors weaving through and around the huge carcasses, but even with a minimalistic stage, 'Slaughter City' was still a powerful, unsettling experience.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home