Festival of Firsts brings Karoo Moose - No Fathers to Trust Arts for its U.S. premiere | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Festival of Firsts brings Karoo Moose - No Fathers to Trust Arts for its U.S. premiere

The show stands as a social commentary and a clarion call for action against international injustice and demands to be heard.

click to enlarge Chuma Sopotela and Bongile Mantsai in Karoo Moose - No Fathers - PHOTO: OSCAR O’RYAN
Photo: Oscar O’Ryan
Chuma Sopotela and Bongile Mantsai in Karoo Moose - No Fathers

An evil beast wreaks havoc on a desert village, and the villagers can’t seem to do anything about it until a teenage girl steps up. Facing the beast head-on, she kills it and brings it back as food for her family.

This beast? It's a moose. 

The Karoo region of South Africa is noted for its arid and harsh climate and foreboding geographic features. Those features form the backdrop for the impoverished village in Karoo Moose – No Fathers

The performance, part of the Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, makes its U.S. debut Thursday at the Trust Arts Education Center Downtown. 

Written and directed by Lara Foot Newton, director and CEO of the Baxter Theater at the University of Cape Town, Karoo Moose – No Fathers uses magical realism to explore themes of violence, family, and the loss of innocence of many South African children. The Trust Arts event page quotes Foot as having said, “something magical was needed to break the cycle of violence.”

Karoo Moose - No Fathers continues through Sun., Oct. 28. Times vary. Trust Arts Education Center. 805 Liberty Ave., Downtown. $35. trustarts.org

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The moose-killing main character is a teenage girl named Thozama, who is offered to a creditor as compensation to settle her father’s debts. The creditor, Kola, and his criminal friends brutally rape Thozama, and she becomes pregnant. Kola continues to harass Thozama and her family even after the baby is born. Eventually, Thozama confronts Kola. The moose both literally and figuratively represents Thozama’s struggle with hardships beyond her own creation or power. 

Thozama shows the audience the potential of rising above the insurmountable to an inspirational effect. Karoo Moose – No Fathers is brilliant and tragic, shedding light on the plight of children and teenagers facing these harsh conditions. It’s a tale that calls for this pattern of violence to end, that something external must take place to address it.

The props and set dressing is minimal, leaving the focus on its dynamic and magical storytelling. 

Before making its U.S. debut this weekend, Karoo Moose was performed in South Africa and London by Baxter Theatre Centre. The Baxter was created in 1976 as a haven for progressive works amid the apartheid era. Karoo Moose, therefore, stands as a social commentary and a clarion call for action against international injustice and demands to be heard. 

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