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THE STRANGER

SCRIPT, DESIGN + DIRECTION: BRETT BAILEY

WITH THE MUSIC OF NKOSENATHI KOELA (AKA MNTANA.WEXHWELE)

'He brought us music,

taught us to sing,

and slowly we began to remember.'

Invite Brett & Nkosenathi

to your city to make

a unique iteration

of THE STRANGER

 with local musicians

and performers.

THE STRANGER is a poetic ritual drama about love and the loss of love, the interconnectedness of all life forms and the transformative power of the arts. It is based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus, a musician whose songs reveal the inner harmony of the universe. His music is so beautiful that rocks, animals and trees gather around him to listen. On the night of his wedding, his bride is killed by a snake, and he travels to the Underworld in an attempt to retrieve her. 

Brett has set the myth in a 21st century city characterised by materialism, alienation and xenophobia. Orpheus is a foreigner: a gifted musician who arrives from across the border, or perhaps from another world. His music has an extraordinary impact: it unifies the citizens, inspires them to challenge the system that oppresses them, and brings the sacredness of the natural world into sharp focus. He falls in love with a woman from the city, Eurydice. When she is murdered he has a profound encounter with a personification of Death, in which he confronts the impermanence of all things. The songs he sings on his return are haunted by despair at his loss, and at the unfolding devastation of the world. The work closes with his lynching by a xenophobic mob.

 

The drama is presented as an immersive, understated ritual to honour that which awakens, integrates, deepens and unifies. Brett is fascinated by the intersections between ritual and performance, dreams and waking reality, myth and contemporary reality, and also with non-conventional modes of story-telling. He strives to create work that activates deep feeling beyond the rational and closer to the spiritual, and that inspires reflection and open interpretation. 

Several thematic threads intersect in this complex work, including the significance of myth, the sacred and memory within our lives; the power of the arts to transform consciousness and to imbue our lives with meaning; the apocalyptic threat to the biosphere in the ‘Anthropocene era’; and the value of immigrants within our societies within a context of the widespread emergence of ethnic intolerance globally. 

 

Orpheus is played by South African composer-musician Nkosenathi Koela (aka Mntana.Wexhwele) and featuring his deeply moving, spiritual music. Of Koela it is said: ‘To hear his sound is to hear the ancients; stories of pain, loss, love and hope, to journey into the unimagined and reimagined.’  

We have two models for the making of this work:
-    we are creating the piece with a South African cast, premiering at the National Arts Festival in June: this work will be available for international touring thereafter. 
-    international presenters are invited to bring Brett and musician-composer Nkosenathi to their cities to make unique iterations rooted in the local context with local casts of musicians and performers.

 

Premiered at the National Arts Festival, South Africa, 2024.
 

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