ORFEUS – Ancient myth in a contemporary setting

Theaterformen Festival from 22 June to 3 July 2011 in Hanover

Brett Bailey| Third World Bunfight | South Africa

En route to an unknown destination. Arriving at a place full of mystery. The light is fading. The smell of a camp fire lingers in the air. Someone starts speaking: “Before Orfeus, there was no music. Nothing to hum when you’re happy or sad.” Orfeus yearns for what lies hidden from the visible world. He discovers the secret of music and even the trees listen spell-bound. Dusk is slowly falling. With his music Orfeus enchants Eurydice and wins her heart. On their wedding night, however, a snake kills his beloved and bears her away to the underworld.

Darkness has now fallen. Orfeus sets out to rescue his bride, his journey takes him to the realm of Hades, the god of the dead. He is horrified by the tormented bodies and lost souls that inhabit it. It is a shadow world, yet part of the here and now of our own existence. Orfeus finds Eurydice and receives permission to take her with him. But on the way he looks back and in so doing, loses her forever. This means that music, too, will never be the same again.

Firelight, a guitar, a voice in the gathering darkness: with the simplest of resources, charismatic performers and great musical sensitivity, Brett Bailey presents a profoundly moving version of the Orpheus myth.

German première

Hannover Festival Theaterformen

Hannover Festival Theaterformen

Word première: 2006, Spier Summer Arts Season, Cape Town

Text, production and design Brett Bailey
Bebe Lueki with Bebe Lueki, Jane Rademeyer, Andile Bonde, Ndumi Zweni, Abey Xakwe and others;sound James Webb; technical coordination management Iain North; stage and tour management Justin Green; company management Third World Bunfight and producer Barbara Mathers; producer international UK Arts International;production Third World Bunfight Cape Town

Schauspielhaus Hannover, Wednesday, 22 June, to Sunday, 26 June

Sponsored by the Federal Foreign Office

Brett Bailey

studied Drama and English Literature at the University of Cape Town (UCT) as well as until 2004 Performance Studies at DasArts, Amsterdam’s university of the arts. Since 2009 the South African has curated Cape Town’s annual Infecting the City Festival. The main focus of his work is exploring Africa’s post-colonial history. His Exhibit A: Deutsch-Südwestafrika(Exhibit A: German South-West Africa) was staged at the 2010 Theaterformen Festival in Braunschweig. In this theatrical installation Bailey takes issue with the genocide perpetrated by the German colonial authorities on the Namibian population in the early twentieth century. His work always relates to today’s world, however. In Exhibit A he spotlights colonialism and the ideology and legacy of racism, including current deportation practice. In OrfeusBailey takes the Greek myth and gives it an African slant, inquiring into the role of the artist confronted with the very real hells existing in today’s globalized world.

Orfeusreceived itsworld première in 2006 in Cape Town. In 2007 it was shown at the Grahamstown Festival and in 2009 at the Holland Festival and the Wiener Festwochen.

Brett Bailey on his work:

“My work draws deeply on the spirituality and ritual of Africa, and on the dynamics of the post-colonial landscape. It investigates the space where the African and the non-African worlds collide, in terms of design, performance modes, religion and ceremony, narrative structure, philosophy and politics.”


2007 medEia: gold medal, Prague Quadrennial for design
2002 BIG DADA: Rosalie van der Gught Award for best director; Fleur du Cap Awards for best new play and for costume design
2001 Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for drama
1997 iMUMBO JUMBO: Vita Awards for best director, script and design.

Third World Bunfight

Foundedby Brett Bailey in 1996, the successful theatre company Third World Bunfight (TWB) is based in Spier Estate near Cape Town. Its thought-provoking performances use ritual music and local design to explore Africa’s history and the clichés associated with the continent. With its award-winning productions BIG DADA, iMUMBO JUMBO, IPI ZOMBI? and THE HOUSE OF THE HOLY AFRO, TWB has toured Africa, Australia and Europe. In South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng Provinces and in Zimbabwe and Uganda the ensemble has worked with many (amateur) actors, often on joint projects with colleagues from the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, the United States and Zimbabwe.

TWB sees helping and encouraging young actors and colleagues in other more disadvantaged areas of Africa as a core dimension of its work.


Last updated 20.04.2011

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