To what lengths, even beyond what we consider humanly possible, would you be prepared to go, to bring back a deceased loved one?
That was the premise of the play: Romanza; A tale of love, despair, and redemption. A story as told by a father to a daughter. It is the story about a man’s love for his wife and his wife’s peculiar love for apples. About the man’s despair following the death of the wife, and his subsequent interaction with the afterlife and the powers that be, in a quest to bring her back to life. All told through nothing but contemporary dance. This was Friday 19th July.
I got to the National Theatre a little after 7pm just as the play was starting. To my surprise, the theatre was virtually empty. A quick count amounted to about 40 people; a realization I didn’t know whether to brush off as Ugandans being on their usual late-coming routine or attribute it to poor publicity. The optimist in me went with the former.
The play begins as two characters are seated on the steps besides the stage. One, the father, is imparting his wisdom to another, his daughter, who is playing a soft tune on an acoustic guitar. He is telling her a story which unfolds on the stage behind them.
On stage, appears a young man sobbing uncontrollably and kneeling next to a portrait which, judging by the flowers and apples around it is his wife. And by the sombre music people standing around him, you can tell she’s just died. A series of dance routines ensues henceforth with the widower, still crying, joining in from time to time.
As he laments, he starts to talk to an overhead light, which I presume is God, and he’s given conditions for her resurrection. Among them includes travelling to the underworld to get her back and her never eating apples again.
While in the underworld, he and his back-to-life wife try to navigate the devil’s allure and temptation which has taken the form of, guess what? Apples. She eventually gives in to the devil’s charm, eats an apple and is dragged away.
The play characterizes the things we would do for the people we love. But perhaps the grandest lesson was that love conquers all. When the wife is dragged away by the devil, she somehow fights him off and runs back into the arms of her husband to applause from the audience.
It was the proverbial happily ever after love story that we all love. It could have been told better. And the choreography left a lot to be desired. The dancers seemed like they’d learnt the routines only the night before. Other than that, it was a decent concept. And with better publicity, they could have garnered a crowd bigger than the 40 people in the audience on Friday night.