2 schools and 2 shows back to back.The first show had that magic connection that sometimes happens between an audience and performers. Action and reaction; fooling around and shrieks of laughter. What a pleasure!
The school then served up a yummy feed of red beans and rice, a sample from the school food programme that is run in poor and rural schools in South Africa.
In the van on the way to the next show Grace, a counselor in the area and organiser of the tour from Sunflower Help, gave Gavin and Colm an education into the conditions in the area. Among many other social and drug problems, 40-50% of the local population have HIV and an estimated 70% have tuberculosis. She informed us that 15 children from the audience of the previous show had the virus.
Straight onto the next show. The hot wind blew the dust and the company around the stage as chasing the props became a farcical part of the spectacle. Gavin rides his unicycle skillfully over the very bumpy ground toward the audience and does a U turn at the last moment sending shockwaves throughout. Very impressive. The crowd bellow out with laughter as the 5 clowns swatted imaginary flies on one of their teachers.
After the show Lorraine the principal from the school said that she has never seen anything like it in her entire life. Grace later explained that many kids have never been to the closest one-horse town due to poverty never mind to the cinemaplex in Durban, so to be receiving these shows in their own schools was an extraordinary occurrence in their lives.
After the performance the girls and boys from the school took to the stage and performed traditional Zulu dances for the over heated clowns while the rest of the school sang Zulu songs in unison. Caroline (Blanket- Ngubo) wasn’t the only one moved by the display, but was the only one tough enough to openly admit it!
6.30am Mr. Fish is outside the monastery practicing his hat tricks as the sun starts to warm the surrounding mountains. He is hardcore, he gets up at 4.30am every morning and does calisthenics. So he gets a room to himself.
7.30am While the Irish literally warm up, the sun is stronger than the hottest Irish summers day (without the occasional rainstorm). It might sound great but it’s rather unnerving when one knows one is due to do acrobatics in all its blazing glory.
Clowns are everywhere to be seen around the old monastery. They’re not praying or doing penance for their sins but working on their routines. Yum Yum is by the stairs running through her hat solo, Gavin is on his unicycle drilling a juggling number with Mr.Fish.
8.30am Last minute preps and the team run through their juggling finale together.
10am the first show is in a creche for the cutest kids ever. Yum Yum (Sussie) does a pre-show repertoire of songs with the children to ease them in.
At the end of the show they present a cake with a big happy clown face. The natural instinct is to have a pie fight but I dont think the kids would appreciate it. Instead it is cut up and shared out to everyone. Even the gardeners from the locality dropped tools so as not to disturb the show and watch instead.
12pm Simon burns his scalp in the 2nd show, that serves him right for shaving his head and beard for charity.
1pm Love is in abundance as the kids pour over the performers. They drag Caroline laughing to the ground for autographs. Ahh, the price of fame.
2.30pm Eat, sleep and rehydrate.
5pm Go to the river and have a boat race by throwing sticks off the bridge which is the highlight of the evening. Living the life of monks is wild.
6pm-Bedtime The night falls early and there is not a single light to be seen in the distance. Centocow is in the middle of the middle of nowhere, I suppose thats why the Trappists monks founded their mission here. A full nectarine moon rises over the mountain side.
Sussie cooks up an African feast for everybody, now we now why we call her ‘Yum Yum’.
A daily debrief included a reflecting on some of the feedback Debbie our host relayed. One lady who has just recently been diagnosed with the “dreadful disease” said that it lifted her heart to see the show and the effect it had on the kids, she said “its a kind of magic”.
We are all are in bed by 10.30pm.
A morning mist lies over the valley, the clowns are excited by the prospect of having some cloud cover from the sun, but by the time they practice the juggling and hat routines it is high in the sky again. Wishful thinking.
The conditions in the schools are good compared to some of the places that we have witnessed in other countries. The government seem to be doing something right in that regard. The food programme ensures that the kids have at least one good meal a day. Saying that, Simon was affected by a talk with a teacher in a library with empty bookcases, he said they needed books.
Both kids and adults here believe that magic is real, so the magic during and after the show inspires awe even in the teachers. Witch Doctoring (‘Sangoma’- traditional healer) is still alive and well in this area, apparently those who have the gift can even travel by cabbage. That would leave a very low carbon footprint!
Our prayers have been answered. Yesterdays trip to the church to visit the Polish missionary priests who are positioned here has paid off as today it is cloudy! YES!!!
The first performance is somewhat relaxed and intimate, the whole audience taking every moment in and laughing in rhythm as if in orchestration with the show.
Later we arrived for the second show. This time it was the kids who performed the finale. They sang Happy Birthday to Colm in Zulu.
Now we have a 3 hour drive back to Durban were we will spend our Saturday washing costumes (dirty socks) and getting stocks and supplies for the week ahead and generally in recovery til Sunday when we return for another week of fun and fun.