In 1973 William Kentridge stood in front of me on the wits library lawns and announced he wanted to work with me. He was very thin, with jet black hair, and affected a bowler hat. This seemed like adequate recommendation.
Soon, along with a number of wonderful witsies, we were collaborating on a number of projects.
In 1975 Kentridge jumped off the balcony in the Nunnery Theatre (mark one) dressed as a bear. He was an actor in my rather frivolous version of Ubu Roi which he also designed. By 1976 we were founder members of Junction Avenue Theatre Company creating the Fantastical History of a Useless Man. Kentridge went on to act in, co- write and design a number of Junction Avenue projects. Brown paper became the medium as he designed a number of backdrops for Sophiatown.
In 1978 William acted in and designed my production of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, and we engaged playfully with the ideas of Lenin, Tristan Tzara and Oscar Wilde and many other artists and thinkers of that period. Revolutionary passions, engaged art, Narcissism and Dadaism provided a heady mix, and in our commune in Junction Avenue, Parktown we raged against each other.
Should art be political? How? What did Russian Formalism have to teach us? Could we pull good ideas out of a hat, as the Dadaists wanted, surrendering logic and connection to the arbitrary or the magically disconnected? What did it mean to be a South African artist?
In Travesties, Kentridge designed and played the part of the famous Dadaist, Tristan Tzara, very proudly wearing a white suit. Before our eyes, or so it seemed, the suit wondrously transformed as it became covered in Dadaist influenced numbers and letters.
As I watch extracts from Refuse the Hour, I am witnessing a thirty year journey of the most brilliant creativity. As an actor, as a writer, as a designer, as a director, as an artist, as a film maker, Kentridge has always been rigorously playing on the edge. It is with great pleasure that we at the Market Theatre welcome this extraordinary series of projects and performances.