Epoch fails to live up to promise

Originally published in Cue.

Every year at the Student Theatre Festival, a young drama student is pulled from the pack and awarded Most Promising Student Director. Along with R15000 towards producing an original work, the director is given a slot on the Fringe programme the next year to perform it in.

Last year’s winner, director of UCT’s Behind Every Yawn There Is A Silent Shout, Mira Sydow, has returned this year with Epoch, a visually striking play about the human psyche that just simply fails to cohere into a compelling story.

Despite a gorgeous and minimalist set covered in fallen leaves and moving performances from Siya Sikawuti and Tarryn Wyngaard, Sydow’s script is what eventually lets her down. The action jerks along between past and present as Sikawuti’s Peter, inspired by the birth of his child, recalls a traumatic memory from his past and falls further into it.

The transitions are not helped by the jarring, thumping electronica, composed by Sisterfella, that even Peter tries to silence while painting the world the way he wants it to be.

The symbolism in Epoch is really its strongest feature from the tiny green shoebox that is Peter’s newborn child to the single school shoe used to stand in for Hector Pieterson.

Epoch’s blurb in the programme seems to suggest that Pieterson, along with Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, will be centre stage in the production but they are only referenced in a single scene and, even then, arbitrarily.

The play finishes so abruptly that the audience was only able to figure out that it had ended after the lights were turned all the way back up.

Though all the elements necessary for a good play were there, Epoch fails to coalesce into much of anything and Sydow fails to live up to the promise she showed last year.

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