In Rage, to Rebellion

Book Cover: In Rage, to Rebellion

A volume comprising three feature pieces.

Backstage at the Revolution

While the African National Congress was a banned organization in South Africa, and the white minority ruled with gunfire, the ANC theatre troupe Amandla toured the world. Amandla is Power. Every performer is a trained soldier and musician, dancer. Here is their tour of Australia.

Beginning in darkness, the Overture is unlike any music theatergoers have heard before:At the first hush of the audience, drum beats begin theOvertures, fierce and splendid rhythms which the blowersof elk horns and trumpets lift and unfurl, a musical bannerof revolution. The conductor is directing musicians and choirfrom dark centre stage. Over the last chord he raises hisarms high, holding silence itself aloft. A village girl,carrying an urn, runs barefoot from the wings to the centreof a column light. She kneels there. As the curtain liftsshe mimes, to sprinkle water, to gather grain. The choiroffstage draws breath. The first word of their hymn will ringout her name. The audience can’t see this, but every singerbackstage has a fist raised in private salute of her. She isstrong, dark, abundant, graceful. She is Africa.

Red Ragger.

Profile of John Halfpenny, union leader, disgruntled communist, the quarry of every conservative newspaper. Here, he addresses a strike meeting of metalworkers.

In silence, he stepped to the rostrum. His hair looked gingery in this light. He was wearing a grey, ample jacket. Like everyone else in the Hall, journalists aside, he wore no tie. In fighting mode, his face musters a large measure of seriousness, but for his jaw, which isn’t able to hide some delinquent hope that soon he might flatten someone he much dislikes. ‘Unionists, comrades, fellow metalworkers.’ He arranged his papers, which was a theatrical gesture, since Halfpenny despises prepared speeches and uses, at the most, a rough list of topics and key phrases. How can you roll and counter-punch, locked into a speech? he says.

The Elemental Physick of Wrath.

Itself comprised of three pieces on the ignition of anger. Here are encounters with a snake, with mindless violence in an asylum, and with a whale in the Pacific.

But, in the recollection I am drawing on now, the blank minutes seemed slow, and the gaze dawdled, when it happened that the deck slid aside underfoot, scuppers ran sudden water, and close under the stern-counter a surge of impossible volume which darkened, greyed, hardened, sucking and spumey, and the spout it blew then unfurled at an altitude higher than the lunging cross-trees. Four in this herd there were, their cherished calves at some safe distance, maybe, for all adults here, each longer than our twenty-one paces of vessel, thunderous and wash, the glossy inquisitive eye, the bony brow, ready to sound any time, poised forward as if to mimic the dive of a swallow. Their tails, aloft in exquisite sequence, were as slow to fall as mountain trees, and the spray slicked the mast like a gusty mist.