Script Development with:
Jaques Da Silva
Kgafela oa Mogagodi
The Lab second year students
In 2015, Noord won the Adelaide Tambo Award in the student category at the National Arts Festival for celebrating human rights through the arts.
Set at Noord Taxi Rank in central Johannesburg, Noord!, is a devised theatre work that tells the compelling story of a woman working as a taxi driver in an industry dominated by men. Her story intersects with another woman who could not be more different: an aspiring model using taxis to get to auditions that she hopes will transform her life and future. The play uses the poetry of the streets, music, and striking imagery to capture life and survival in the margins of the dirty, crazy, beautiful and dangerous city of Joburg. It is a funny and moving exploration of how gender, power and belonging are negotiated in public spaces.
Noord! was created through a workshop process. Firstly, we were most concerned with capturing the world of the taxi rank, before delving into the story. We shared articles about Noord Street taxi-rank, and then spent a lot of time at the rank: observing, recording, writing, listening, interviewing and collecting objects, junk, posters and images. The cast tried to get to know the drivers of the taxis they use to get to and from the Lab. We spoke to taxi drivers, queue marshals, taxi owners, and taxi managers, and we collected people’s stories of funny or strange things that happened to them on taxis. From this, we started to create scenes that created the life of the rank, and in so doing, settled on a character for each person. Each taxi-driver character found a tyre that suited their character as a representation of their taxi, and started to explore the physical possibilities – how to drive, park, communicate with, their taxi. This determined the style of the play, which was heightened and non-realistic, using music and images as much as dialogue.
As the everyday life of our theatrical taxi rank was created, we began to explore what it would be like if it was disrupted by a woman from rural KZN who was quite traditional, but who was pushed by circumstances into becoming a taxi-driver. We selected moments that showed the conflict that this might create, and started to thread them together, exploring how the woman might change gradually as she adapted to a new space. Clothes became an important symbol – necessary in a play that culminates in an attack on a woman for wearing a miniskirt. The male taxi-drivers themselves also take clothing seriously – it can determine whether you have respect or not.
This process resulted in a fast-paced, playful ensemble performance that reflected a lot of truth about life in Johannesburg.