Representing the first collaboration between artist and researcher Meghan Judge, director Craig Leo, and members of the Ukwanda Puppets and Design Art Collective, The Lonely Sailor Weather Report is a brief reflection on isolation and lonesomeness.
A series of vignettes, the eponymous lonely sailor – manipulated by members of the Ukwanda Puppets and Design Art Collective: Luyanda Nogodlwana, Sipho Ngxola and Siphokazi Mpofu – bobs along in a void-like space. He slowly moves through a series of worlds, picking up snippets of civilisation in the form of radio broadcasts as he travels amidst the static. The further he travels, the more he loses the comfort of society to the static, until the sailor eventually embraces his new watery environment
It is a strange and surreal rumination on our environmental future that feels as though it runs a little too short to make an actual statement upon its themes – unless one is inherently aware of them. Thankfully, this is greatly aided by the question and answer session held after the performance. Hearing the inspiration for the piece from Judge, and the experiences of the performers in making the piece, helps to give the audience a greater grasp on what they have just witnessed.
What cannot be understated though are the production values of The Lonely Sailor Weather Report, which greatly complement the performance. The cinematography serves the piece perfectly, utilising a wide-angle shot to depict a feeling of scale and awe while reinforcing the sailor’s isolation. Solemn piano music plays gently in the background, interrupted by static and distant radio broadcasts – some in English and some in Setswana; all the while visual effects and filters overlay the performance, emphasising a sense of otherworldliness.
With all of its elements combined, The Lonely Sailor Weather Report presents a unique albeit strange experience that doesn’t feel as though it lasts long enough to be truly impactful. That said, the key components are strong, and with a bit more time this feels like it could be something truly thought-provoking.