/ 7 November 2008

A dream disturbed

This Is No Dream, a collaborative performance conceived by Norwegian artists Toril Goksoyr and Camilla Martens, is a short ”documentary opera” about the dreams of pupils at Barnato Park High School in Berea, Johannesburg.

Two classes from the high school were given the task of writing a libretto after the artists interviewed Norwegian and South African learners about the dreams they have at night and their thoughts about the futures of their respective home countries.

Performed at the opening of Disturbance by the Barnato Park School Choir, the libretto strings together a selection of these short dream narratives and is set to an unconventional musical score by composer Lars Petter Hagan.

The piece’s different voice parts are spoken rather than sung, creating a live choral cacophony of overlapping speech, whispering and shouting.

At first this muddled soundscape brings to mind the nonsense poetry recitals of the Dadaists and Surrealists, but as the narrative of the libretto unfolds, a deliberate, coherent message resounds.

This Is No Dream is about hope for the future of South Africa. As the piece reaches its climax, recollections of night-time dreams morph into expressions of the learners’ desires for a peaceful, utopian South Africa that they are integral in creating.

At one point close to the end of the performance the choir shouts in unison: ”I want to save thousands of South Africans.” This declaration is touching in its earnestness, but also chilling as it reminds us that there are, in fact, thousands of South Africans who need saving.