By: Albert Pretorius
Featuring: Albert Pretorius
Directed by: Tara Notcutt
6 October, 13:00
“Is it more cruel to tell someone that you love them when you don’t, or to keep quiet when you do?”
As the audience enter Potchefstroom High School for Boys’ hall, they are met by Albert Pretorius’ character, Jason. He is anxious to welcome you and clearly excited about the surprise party that he is hosting. The stage is covered in brightly coloured balloons (a clever way to fill an empty stage without breaking the bank) and the incoming audience members are offered cheese curls and beer.
Jason seems a bit nervous. As the audience waits with him in this dreary hall for Lucy’s arrival, Jason reveals details, of an increasingly intimate nature, about his own life and his relationship with Lucy. However, it becomes gradually clear that Lucy is not coming home. The belated surprise party is Jason’s last, desperate attempt to persuade Lucy to change her mind and return to him.
Pretorius has an exceptional way of depicting desperation and denial. He clearly understands the nuances needed to portray these states. His acting has a subtle, layered quality which demands (and gets) sympathy from the audience. The character’s exasperation at the ever widening gap between his expectations and the sad, boring reality of his life – as well as his accompanying complacency – is poignant. The audience is faced with a character who seems to be in one of two mutually exclusive states: either pushing all his limits in emulating a life of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, or being an insufferable couch potato. He flees from a life of recklessness to a suffocating cocoon of safety. Neither of these states seem to bring Jason closer to a rich and fulfilling life. Both end up being masks that Jason wear; protective even when they create the impression of being dangerous. This is beautifully illustrated with the haunting question that Jason poses: “Is it more cruel to tell someone that you love them when you don’t, or to keep quiet when you do?”
This production is thus a striking theatre experience and I would probably have hailed it as one of my Aardklop highlights if – and this is a very important ‘if’- I had not seen Will Eno’s Thom Pain performed by this very same team at this very same festival in 2011. At face value, Jason does not seem to be as aloof as Thom. He exposes his own insecurities and vulnerabilities in a far less calculated way than Thom. Put bluntly, Thom is not such an obvious loser as Jason. That being said, both of them are confronted with the same inability to make sense of their lives. Both vacillate between revealing too much of themselves and hiding behind facades. Both use the same lyrical intonation when speaking about that which they find to be beautiful. Therefore, Jason reminds me too much of Thom. Also the set-up – a single actor directly addressing the audience and revealing his existential angst – reminds me too much of the set-up of Thom Pain. Even the costume that Pretorius wears at one point in Lucy’s Party is identical to Thom’s black suit and tie.
Therefore, I think that this production is a commendable display of solid acting and direction. I also think that it was too harshly dismissed in two uninformed reviews in the Spat of 9 October. But, Lucy’s Party is piggy-backing on Thom Pain to the point that it is unoriginal. And I find that very unfortunate.