Robyn Orlin, iconoclastic South African choreographer, likes long titles. Her previous works are testament to this, for example; ... have you hugged, kissed and respected your brown Venus today? (2011), or the even more unwieldy, Beauty remained for just a moment then returned gently to her starting position (2012). Labelled a “permanent irritation” in her home country, Orlin takes the epithet as a compliment. She’s the grain of sand that makes a pearl! An imperfect one, but still.

Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza in Orlin's <i>And so you see...</i> © Robyn Orlin
Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza in Orlin's And so you see...
© Robyn Orlin
Her offering to the 2018 edition of the Festival TransAmérique follows the blueprint of her previous works, firstly in the choice of a ponderous and rather hefty title: And so you see… our honorable blue sky and ever enduring sun.. can only be consumed slice by sliceOrlin says the title alludes to greed. “I look at Trump and the way that white America is thinking right now and I see sheer greed, no compassion whatsoever, survival of the fittest. Capitalism has made us such ugly people. How are we going to overcome this greed? That is the question I am asking in this piece.” And so you see... is performed by a solo artist, Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza. Orlin says Khoza represents a new generation of South Africans living and working at the intersection of multiple identities; he is a performer, a healer, gay, black, obese, university educated. He is both masculine and feminine, traditional and arrestingly contemporary.

The piece starts with Khoza seated, wrapped entirely in white linen. There’s something about the imprecise folds and fall of light that reminds me of David’s Death of Marat. A large scale projection lights up the stage; it’s a close-up image of his wrapped stomach undulating with slightly laboured breath. The linen wrapping is removed to reveal another layer to be peeled; underneath he is tightly wrapped in clingfilm, everywhere except his nose and mouth.

Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza in Orlin's <i>And so you see...</i> © Robyn Orlin
Albert Silindokuhle Ibokwe Khoza in Orlin's And so you see...
© Robyn Orlin
The imagery in And so you see... is visceral, oftentimes sexual. Khoza picks up a bowl of plump shiny oranges and a sharp butcher’s knife. He methodically peels one orange in a single strip, unraveling the world. Yet another layer to unwrap! Then he eats the orange, plunging the knife in quickly and skillfully to extract perfect segments and stuffs them into his waiting mouth, slice by slice. The juice drips onto the clingfilm. He takes another orange, and instead of peeling it, eats it skin-and-all. It’s disconcerting. It’s like Titus Andromedon went to art school. The audience doesn’t know quite what to do, and I sense Khoza starting to enjoy himself. He’s only just getting started.

He orders two people from the audience to sponge him down when he’s done; berates one, tries to seduce the other. They are game but clearly uncomfortable, which seems to be the general idea of Orlin’s oeuvre.

If I had to summarize this show in a nutshell, it would be “Political cabaret for the arthouse crowd.” I laughed giddily. I felt off-kilter. I cringed. I’ll tell you one thing: it certainly makes a change from the usual amalgam of glitchy-soundscape-street-clothes-gestural-choreo that is everywhere right now. I think that’s enough of a reason to check it out, provided of course that you have a decent tolerance for the avant-garde.