Director: Jenny Kandenge Screenplay: Jenny Kandenge Cast: Girley Jazama, Bret Kamwi, Edo Dice, Roya Diehl, Bica Martin
Think of the Saw franchise. But low budget and only 17 minutes in length. That’s The Game.
Although she is emerging in film, I have seen Jenny Kandenge deliver with her stage productions. Deliver as in she always find a way to rope one into her storytelling. When I first saw the trailer of The Game, however, I was not impressed. But in this short film, Kandenge managed to find a way for me to put a cork in it.
The Game follows Ndanki (Girley Jazama) and Nico (Bret Kamwi) as they find themselves locked in a room with two strangers Esme (Roya Diehl) and Greg (Edo Dice). Nobody knows how they got there, all they know is to leave, they have to play the game.
The film plays on the a-soul-for-your-freedom trope which forces its characters to panic and make tough decisions, or a decision for that matter. Locked in a small room, with a note, a clock, a surveillance camera and a gun, the characters give performances which forces one of them to sacrifice himself for the freedom of the others. At surveillance we meet Frankie (Bica Martin), which reveals the twist, and where the film also introduces a Get Out type of play- although to a lesser degree.
While the storyline doesn’t offer anything new, it is refreshing to see a Namibian thriller that is stitched well together with a surprisingly satisfying ending. The Game is worthy for the dialogue you can digest, the sadistic ending and cast performances- especially by Jazama.
The film doesn’t have any gore, which further differentiates it from the Saw movies. The Game is a fun thrill ride, especially since it was produced with a very low budget and shot in just 16 hours just before the entire country went on Covid-19 lockdown.
This is a game.
The Game is produced by Pegasus Entertainment Productions with funding from Goethe Institute Namibia and the Namibian Film Commission.
These past few weeks sombre news has been on loop on the internet. For this reason, Namib Insider! is keeping up with our friends in the stage and screen industry through a series of Q&A’s titled ‘Lockdown Missive’. During this series, we will feature various performers and creators as they share their quarantine experiences and at the same time, bring a little more light on the internet.
Today we have writer, director and producer Jenny Kandenge. She is the author of Trauma, and co-creator of web series, Untitled. Kandenge also Directed Two Sides, a short film produced in South Africa and The Game (working title) which is currently in preproduction. Being a theatremaker too, Kandenge has written and directed numerous theatre productions including Ominous (2016), for which she won Best Original Script: Theatre at the Namibia Theatre and Film Awards, Daddy’s Girls (2018) Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls (2019). Kandenge also holds various nominations for her theatre work.
When the first lockdown was announced in March, what was your initial reaction?
I was terrified because I had a feeling that life was about to change forever. I keep saying that there’s no way to go back to the way we lived before Covid-19. Before they announced the lockdown, I made plans to travel home. I had a feeling that a lockdown was coming, I figured it would be better at home with family during the lockdown than by myself.
What really bums you out about the current state of events?
How artists have lost out on a lot of gigs, thankfully most of them have been postponed instead of cancelled but it breaks my heart when I think about how much this has affected our industry. We were really never prepared for this.
Productivity wise, what have you been up to?
I’ve been writing like crazy, literally been writing every day even if it’s just one sentence. I’ve been reading a lot as well, I’ve just been trying to work on ways to improve and develop my writing skills. I’ve also been taking part in free masterclasses and online classes.
It’s probably hard but how have you been trying to keep a positive mental attitude during these times?
I’ve been exercising, doing mostly jumping rope and yoga. Doing meditations and listing at least four things that I am thankful for, a little gratitude goes a long way. I have also been dancing as much as I can with the kids. Reading helps and keeping in touch with my close friends. But I am also learning that it’s okay not to be okay but just not to get stuck in a dark place but to feel the emotions and let them pass through.
With the arts temporarily shut down, how would you advise people to continue to support the arts industry?
Participate in an online art class, many artists are taking their skills online, since many conferences and workshops are being put on hold and in-person events have been cancelled, so classes are moving online. If you are financially able, consider donating the money that you would have spent on tickets to live performances or exhibition tickets to artist organizations, arts nonprofits, and artists instead. If you can’t donate then share the work of your favourite artists, it can boost their social following and, in turn, hopefully, sales. All people during this difficult time could use a little extra emotional support. Send the artist in your life a text, pick up the phone, or send a card or care package. Now more than ever we need to increase our social bonds and let people know that we appreciate the work they do. Being an artist in a normal economy can be a financial struggle, being an artist can be downright stressful.
During the lockdown, have you discovered anything that you’d like to recommend to Namib Insider! readers?
Check out FreeBooks.net it is my favourite site to get free E-books, reading might not be for everyone but it helps. Also reality shows, Love is Blind and Too Hot To Handle which are both on Netflix are pretty good. Check out Yoga with Adriene on YouTube which is totally free. For theatremakers, there is GhostLight, a site that provides a virtual space for online theatre courses, education, and mentoring. There are free online classes for theatre ranging from directing to acting that you can sign up for if you want to develop your skills. Also, for the filmmakers, the MultiChoice Talent Factory is offering a free masterclass Produce like a Pro, join in.
Looking to the future, what are you looking forward to most when all of this is over?
Being around creatives. I am excited to see what artists have been up to because the world will need art after this.
Lastly, a penguin walks through your door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
Director Jenny Kandenge’s production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf is a radical activist piece of theatre paying homage to the late Ntozake Shange and oppressed women the world over.
The production, impeccably stitched together in moving monologues, euphonious musical delivery and heart-wrenching acting delivery is a feast for the poetry lover which solidifies the unity of women, especially in the face of adversity in form of sexism and racism.
From the onset, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf screams women empowerment, self-love, courage and passion. The choreopoem is performed by seven women identified only by the colour of their clothing; Lady in Orange (Odile Gertze), Lady in Green (Counney Kemp), Lady in Yellow (Diana Master), Lady in Red (Christell Nassauw) Lady in Brown (Rencha Murere), Lady in Purple (Jeanne-Danae Januarie), and Lady in Blue (Xaverie M). With most of the cast being first-time actors, expectations idle, especially considering the emotional, mental and speech required for a production like this. However, upon opening night, these seven women gave a stellar performance and one couldn’t help but connect with the women as they share stories of rape, sexual awakening and courage in a poetic manner.
The mood in the National Theatre of Namibia’s auditorium was engaging and as the women revealed the dilemma of being a woman, especially, a black woman, intense emotions of guilt, sympathy and anger built-up because not only was this classic piece relevant in 76′ but the headlines of today remain the same as violence against women, at the hands of men, is still on the rise.
Previously Kandenge vowed to stick to Shange’s 1976 version, however, the to keep the Namibian-ness, the cast spoke in their natural tones and no weird ‘Afro-American’ accent was heard and I must say, it was well-executed. Add the musical element by Lize Ehlers and her band and the rhythmic movements choreographed by Nikhita Winkler, and Kandenge’s production of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf is piece even Shange herself would’ve been proud of.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf will show for two more nights at the National Theatre of Namibia, 29 and 30 November. Tickets are available at Computicket for N$100.
Three weeks into the rehearsal process of her production of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Director Jenny Kandenge describes the rehearsal process as a fun experience that feels like a sisterhood.
With a play that incorporates acting, dance and music, Kandenge admits rehearsals can become draining, but she’s positive the audience will come out different after the production, “different in a good way.”
For this adaptation of Shange’s first and much-acclaimed work, Kandenge, who has directed 6 plays so far, wants audiences to come with an open mind and to forget all they think they know about For Colored Girls and be prepared to be blown away.
Here, the best director winner talks about bringing Shange’s work, which is currently having a revival in the US, to the Namibian stage.
Tell us about your first time reading the script Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf.
I was like wow… so this is what For Colored girls really is about. It is completely different from the film and I was blown away. I decided then and there that Namibians had to see the original piece.
Apart from being written in the early ’70s, this work is being revived in the US right now. As a female director yourself, why was it important for you to tell this powerful work of Shange to a Namibian audience and what was it that made you choose this piece to work with?
It is such an honour to be able to stage Shange’s work, she was a phenomenal woman. For Coloured Girls is still relevant right now, the issues that the women in the choreopoem talks about things still happening to this day, which is sad because it shows that since the 70s things haven’t changed much for women. I was always drawn to the script after I saw the movie and since 2014 I’ve been wanting to stage it but I never felt ready. But with all the violence against women happening right now I felt it is my duty as a theatremaker to tell stories like this. We are going to be echoing what is happening in our world right now.
This piece was adapted into a film by Tyler Perry and has staged numerous times on international stages, have you seen a production of it before? How does it influence your directorial choices for this production?
I have seen the film, but I always did some research and when I found out that it is based on a theatre production I found a clip of the original play and again I was blown away. I feel that I have a duty to stay true to what Shange wanted to say with For Colored Girls,- which is something very different from the film.
You are well-know for your thriller-themed theatrical work that explores the darker, more manic sides of the human race and this work is more layered around black feminism and the piece is a choreopoem, overall. Is this something new for you?
Directing a choreopoem is something completely new for me, but I am having so much fun with it and so is the creative team and actresses. It is a good challenge for them. People might know me for my thriller works but this isn’t my first production focused on black feminism and activism, Daddy’s Girls was actually inspired by For Colored Girls and I took some of the themes from it and placed it in my script.
Shange’s writing style is idiosyncratic and she often uses vernacular language, unique structure, and unorthodox punctuation to emphasize syncopation. What are some of the adaptions you are integrating, in the form of language and dramatization that will make it appealing and understandable to the Namibian audience? Or are you leaving the script as is?
Shange’s style of writing is so beautiful that I could not see me changing it. I had to change a few things here and there because the original is based in the US but the changes I made didn’t change the message and feel of the script. Shange wrote the script so that her grandmother would understand, she said she wanted to write the way coloured girls speak and with respect for her, I have left it as is. However, there are no accents- all the actresses are keeping their natural voices and tones.
You are working with Lize Ehlers as musical director and Nikhita Winkler as the Choreographer, how is it like working with them to create this new vision of work?
It is the best feeling ever, we even have an all-female band and they are amazing. Lize and Nikhita are brilliant at what they do. As a choreopoem the elements of music, dance are so essential in making the piece come alive and having people who know what they are doing, who understand the play, helps a lot. It’s like we’re all cooking and everyone is adding something in the pot to make this lovely meal. I can truly say that I wouldn’t have been able to stage this production without their collaboration.
Let’s talk about your cast. You were specifically looking for diverse women of colour with strong vocal and speech abilities. Why is this important and who are the cast members?
I wanted the women to be a rainbow themselves, different ages, races, and looks. The actresses are telling stories of different women all over the world, diversity was very important for me and of course strong vocal and speech abilities because some of the pieces are long and I had to look at how they can keep the attention of the audience with their voice.
Lady in Orange is played by Odile Gertze
Lady in Green is played by Counney Kemp
Lady in Yellow is played by Diana Master
Lady in Red is played by Christell Nassauw
Lady in Brown is played by Rencha Murere
Lady in Purple is played by Jeanne-Danae Januarie
Lady in Blue is played by Xaverie M
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow Is Enuf opens on 28 November and runs until 30 November 2019, at the National Theatre of Namibia’s Auditorium at 20h00 on all evenings. General tickets are at N$100 and N$80 for senior citizens and students. Tickets available at Computicket.
Jenny Kandenge’s upcoming thriller play, Sisters’ follows Jeffery (Nashawn Marenga) and Selina (Lahja Haufiku), who share a bond stronger than most siblings, believing that they are indestructible together, until Joy (Monica Iyambo) comes along.
The story unfolds when Jeffery plans a dinner date for Joy, who in turn has a plan with her sister, Alicia (Mikiros //Garoes), to uncover the truth about their younger sister, Amy’s death. The night turns into a cat and mouse game, as Joy tries to get Jeffery to let his guard down while the threat of Selina works to find out the motives behind Joy’s visit. It’s an evening of revenge and deceit, a built up of sibling rivalry as they all work to outsmart each other to find what the other is hiding.
Writer and Director, Kandenge, who won an award for best script in 2017 for her thriller play Ominous, says that her latest offering explores sibling bonds and how far one would go for them.
Kandenge says while keeping a good balance of tension, she has to make sure that the audience won’t be bored and turn their eyes away from the stage.
“I have to say the play scares me a bit. I did not realize it could get so dark and intense. Another thing is to be careful not to push my actors too much, the play does deal with some dark themes and I always have to be aware that actors are fragile they pick up traits of their characters without even realizing at times, so I am working to make sure that they don’t lose themselves completely,” she says.
The inspiration for the script, Kandenge says, came from a discussion she had with someone, adding that the entire premise of the play came from the question of ‘what would you do if you were in a room with someone who killed someone close to you?’
“I developed it from there onward, because I’ve always been intrigued by what pushes people to do horrible things or why they do horrible things. I wanted to take these characters who seem like everyday people and place them in a situation similar to the question I had and see what they would do. Most of my inspiration comes from really dark places but I think these characters are going to be relatable or so I hope. It will definitely be interesting to watch.”
This Director’s Lab production will be on stage for two consecutive days at the National Theatre of Namibia from 1- 2 November 2018 at 19h00. Tickets go for N$80. Students and pensioners pay N$50. Tickets are available at all Computicket outlets.