Take Flight is a production about finding belonging in a world of otherness. It is a journey across continents to a place beyond appearances; a place we long for but are not sure exists. A collaborative South African-Polish puppetry production for young audiences, Take Flight uses diverse forms of puppetry, song and live performance to create a vivid world in which the two main characters look for somewhere they may be at home.
In Poland there are approximately 25 resident puppet theatres, each employing 15-30 permanent performing staff, plus technical, workshop and administrative staff. These institutions produce theatre year-round for their audiences, mainly children and young people.
When Director Marek Waszkiel took over as director of one such resident theatre, Animacji theatre in Poznan, his vision was to bring contemporary puppet theatre artists from around the world to direct work for the theatre.
Waszkiel saw Janni Younge’s Ouroboros in Charleville in 2013 where it was being performed at the World Puppetry Festival as part of the France-South Africa seasons. He asked Janni to develop and direct a piece of theatre for young people at Animacji Theatre.
Janni joined a some of the world’s foremost puppetry artists including Duda Paiva, Fabrizio Montecchi, Neville Tranter, Eric Bass and Joan Baixas. She began collaborating with the team in Poznan via a series of Skype conversations with the theatre’s dramaturg Malina Prześluga. Malina is widely recognised as one of Poland’s most promising new dramaturges.
The Process of Creation
Janni and Malina talked had several discussions in which they discovered that strong questions of racial identity and prejudice were affecting both Poland and South Africa currently. Thinking about connections between the two countries they found their way to the idea of the migrating bird, the stork. They discovered that the Polish White Storks migrate to South Africa where they encounter Black Storks. Intrigued by this synchronistic reality Malina and Janni began to explore a story of alienation and identity using birds as anthropomorphic characters and so the story of Fantu and Nanji emerged.
Janni visited Poznan twice (in 2014 and 2015) to develop the production with the team of actors and with Malina who scripted the piece. Both occasions provided critical material, first for the conception and scripting and then for the design and direction of the work.
Puppet Designs were drawn in Janni’s studio in Cape Town while a team of puppet builders in Poznan were simultaneously building the puppets. This was a new process for Janni who is normally very hands-on with the building process. Designs had to be very specific and detailed, as the language barrier didn’t allow for general conversations.
Nanji, a young white stork has grown up in Africa. He stands out and is told he doesn’t belong in Africa. Nanji’s mother has always spoken of their home, the beautiful and peaceful Europe. Nanji wants to find a true home. His attempt to fit in with the black storks is rejected by all except his fearless friend Fantu. When their plan to turn Nanji’sfeathers black with mud fails, Fantu persuades Nanji to set off for Europe and to take her with him. She loves the idea of the adventure of a new place and doesn’t listen to any warnings about flying alone. Buffeted by winds, spooked by pelicans and challenged by the Marabou in the middle, the two young storks finally make it to the promised land of Europe. The reception that awaits is not what they had been led to believe. Finally they realise they have to choose what to call home.
Produced by Teatr Animacji w Poznaniu (Animacji Theatre in Poznań)
Directed and Designed by Janni Younge
Scripted by Malina Prześluga
Sound Design and musical composition by Michał Łaszewicz