“Sophiatown.”

By: Junction Avenue Theatre Company
Featuring: Arthur Zitha, Barileng Malebye, Christine van Hees, Hlengiwe Lushaba Madlala, Joel Zuma, Nicholas Nkuna, Sechaba Ramphele, Tshepiso Tracey Tshabalala
Directed by: Malcolm Purkey
Associate director: Gina Shmukler
Choreography: Sonia Thandazile Radebe, Nhlanhla Mahlangu
Lighting design: Denis Hutchinson
Costume and set design: Sarah Roberts
Musical director: Arthur Molepo
10 April 2016, 15:00
John Kani Theatre, The Market Theatre

Sophiatown, is definitely one of the highlights from South Africa’s struggle theatre canon. It is simultaneously a touching tragedy and an entertaining celebration. The play documents and immortalises the bygone cultural hub that was Sophiatown and therefore demands to be revived every now and again.

The play is set in Mamariti’s house. She is a shebeen queen who brews her own beer and rents rooms out for an extra income. Her gangster son, Mingus, also lives in the house with his girlfriend, Princess. Lulu, Mamariti’s youngest, is still at school. Jakes is a journalist who also resides in Mamariti’s house. He advertises a room in the house, specifying that the lodger should be a white Jewish girl from Yeoville. Jakes then plans to write a series of articles about this social anomaly for Drum Magazine. When Ruth Golden answers the ad and comes to live in Mamariti’s house, all of the characters are confronted with the implications of their own race and roots within the context of apartheid South Africa. The play ends with the characters splitting in different directions as they are forcibly removed from Sophiatown.

For this revival, many of the key members of the original production were involved, most notably, Malcolm Purkey, founding member of Junction Avenue Theatre Company and original director of the play. And yet, the production was not a nostalgic rehashing of an old script. The play is firmly positioned in its historical context with three panels of photos, pages from Drum Magazine, and artwork by William Kentridge forming the backdrop to the performance. The audience is, therefore, asked to re-examine the play as if it were an artefact.

One of my favourite things about the John Kani theatre is the way that the stage reaches into the auditorium. There is no proscenium arch, and the distance between the performers and the audience is minimal, as a result. This works especially well with plays addressing issues of social injustice, such as Sophiatown. The audience is pulled into the action on stage, not only through an emotional engagement with the fictional world portrayed, but also by their physical proximity to the performers. In this performance, the stage was framed with two telegraph poles. Their lines reached into the auditorium, blurring any definite line between performer and spectator.

Sarah Roberts’ set design was functional and aesthetically pleasing. The space looked realistic and lived-in, but with rostra and tables, also provided the choreographers with a multi-levelled space to stage the musical numbers in. The space between the panels forming the backdrop and the acting area was filled with boxes. This is a very effective way to fill up a stage while staying within a modest budget. In this case, the boxes were also a foreboding of what is to come: the audience knows that the residents of Sophiatown were forcibly removed under the Groups Area Act of the apartheid regime. When the inevitable happens, and the residents of Mamariti’s house need to pack up and leave for Meadowlands, these boxes are used as props.

However, despite dealing with the fragility of human dignity, the play never becomes sentimental. The action is interrupted from time to time with musical numbers, in a manner reminiscent of Brecht. It not only provides the audience with a break in which to consider what they have seen, but it also shows the audience glimpses into the rich culture of Sophiatown. Furthermore, the characters are not shown in a one-dimensional way, constantly mulling over their cruel and undeserved circumstances. The audience also sees them when they are playful, as when Mingus and Princess return from seeing an American film, pretending to be Americans and joking with each other.

Overall, the actors succeed brilliantly in balancing tragedy and celebration in this way. However, there was an unfortunate slump in the energy directly after intermission. It could possibly be attributed to a very restless audience, fidgeting with bags of chips (why does the Market Theatre even sell chips during intermission?!). Luckily, the actors picked up the energy again and delivered the end of the play with the intensity that it deserves.

The play has a very strong emotional appeal, especially towards the end when the characters are unable to bridge the divide between them. Ruth becomes part of Mamariti’s household and she and Jakes fall in love, but when crisis strikes, she remains an outsider. As with the names of the fahfee numbers that she practices by herself every night, life in Sophiatown remains a foreign language that she can never fully learn. And yet, Sophiatown implores the spectator to keep on trying.

“Juno and the Paycock.”

By: Sean O’Casey
Featuring: Declan Conlon, Peter Coonan, Ingrid Craigie, Derbhle Crotty, Emmet Kirwan, Brid Ní Neachtain, Caoimhe O’Malley, Karl O’Neill, Terry O’Neill, Mark O’Regan, Marty Rea, Karl Shiels, Jimmy Smallhorne, Fionna Hewitt-Twamley, Fionn Walton
Directed by: Mark O’Rowe
2 March 2016, 14:30
Gate Theatre, Dublin

The last time that I visited Dublin, in 2011, I was fortunate enough to see two theatre productions: God of Carnage at the Gate Theatre, and Raoul at the Abbey. In both cases I was struck by, and envious of, the impressive sets and the über professional, polished performances. Naturally, I was anxious to see at least one play during my 2016 visit to Dublin and I was spoilt for choice. Initially, I was very excited to see David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue at the Abbey Theatre, but due to being preoccupied and scatterbrained as well as underestimating the Dublin population’s theatre attendance, I could not get tickets even for a matinee.

Having resolved to see my third choice (The Plough and the Stars was also sold out), I came to the theatre expecting a classic play influenced by the Naturalism movement and rooted in the social context of the Civil War in Ireland. At the matinee performance, the audience – mainly school children and retired people with (bless their hearts) rustling sweet wrappers – encouraged this expectation. Yet, while Juno and the Paycock did conform to my expectation, it is far more than a museum piece.

Juno and the Paycock is about a struggling Irish family living in Dublin in the early 1920s. The patriarch, Captain Jack Boyle (Declan Conlon) does not seem able to hold a job, which – along with his friendship with the opportunistic Joxer Daly (Marty Rea) – is a source of constant conflict between him and his wife, Juno (Derbhle Crotty). The war has left their son, Johnny (Fionn Walton) maimed, crippled, and bitter. This depressing situation is temporarily relieved when Jack and Juno’s daughter, Mary (Caoimhe O’Malley), introduces them to Charles Bentham (Emmet Kirwan), her soon-to-be fiancé as well as the bearer of good news: Jack Boyle is to inherit a small fortune from a distant relative. The family celebrates this news by living lavishly in anticipation, but nothing comes of the inheritance and, as one last kick in the crotch, Charles leaves Mary in the lurch.

Firstly, I was once again impressed with the substantial and detailed décor, props and costumes. The dim, white light shining through the windows on either side of the set, combined with the grey walls and scant furnishings, immediately establishes a miserable atmosphere intensified by cold, damp weather. The stage area is quite roomy, however, and I did wonder if the tenements of this time was not significantly smaller. I also think that a smaller set might have created a more claustrophobic atmosphere which, in turn, would have fuelled the family’s need to escape their surroundings.

Although it took a while for the performance to fall into rhythm, I was completely drawn into the action by the start of the second act. The acting was convincing throughout, to the point that, in anticipating the outcome of things, the audience members cringe in embarrassment on behalf of the characters. The characters are foolish, irresponsible, and naïve but this is exactly what makes them human. The audience can easily identify with their loss, their disillusionment, and their desire for a better life.

Mark O’Rowe’s production succeeds in creating a prevailing sense of tragedy throughout the play. Even in the moments when the characters are at their most optimistic, there is a sense of only almost reaching what they desire; a sense of impending disappointment. This idea is emphasised by subtle visual clues such as the beautiful green dress that Mary wears when her fiancé visits. The dress does not fit Mary well and her frail frame does not do it justice. In the same way, her engagement to Charles remains temporary: like something that she is allowed to try on, but not to keep. Just before the commencement of the final scene, the lighting in the stage area remains dim, but the proscenium is sharply lit in a bright, white, unyielding light which emphasises the cruelty and finality of the play’s outcome.

Despite the depressing subject matter of the play, O’Casey avoids sentimentality by including ample incidences of comedy. In this regard, I want to single out Ingrid Craigie who portrayed the character of Mrs Maisie Madigan with the perfect combination of comic timing and authenticity.

Although I found the play’s ending to be “overwritten” by contemporary standards, Juno and the Paycock remains an intriguing text and Mark O’Rowe’s production does not disappoint.

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

By: Hugh Wheeler/Stephen Sondheim
Featuring: Jonathan Roxmouth, Charon Williams-Ros, Michael Richard, Cameron Botha, Sanli Jooste, Anne-Marie Clulow, Jaco van Rensburg, Adam Pelkowitz, Kelsey-Lynn du Toit, Germandt Geldenhuys, Weslee Swain Lauder, Pauline du Plessis, Megan Rigby, Candice van Litsenborgh, Claire Simonis, Earl Gregory, Brandon Moulder, Schoeman Smit, Luciano Zuppa
Directed by: Steven Stead
Produced by: Pieter Toerien and KickstArt
28 November, 20:00
Montecasino Theatre and Studio

Musicals are sometimes scorned at and with good reason. Being commercially successful and paradoxically reproducible, it earned itself the nickname of “McTheatre” (Rebellato, 2010). The musical is usually spectacular (Gänzl, 2006) with impressive special effects (New York Show Tickets, 2008). The plot is often light and uncomplicated with a happy ending (Brantley, 2009) to the point that Rebellato (2011) describes commercial musicals as “pleasure machines.” That being said, I am a sucker for a good musical and Sweeney Todd is an exceptional musical.

The combination of the “feel good” genre and melodramatically macabre storyline works remarkably well. The vaudeville performance style and Quentin Tarantino-esque blood spatters were deliciously bizarre and the costumes, make-up and lighting all contribute to make the spectator feel as if he or she were trapped at an eerie Halloween party. The production was performed in the smaller Montecasino Theatre and Studio, rather than in the Teatro, and the intimacy of the smaller venue emphasised the grisly atmosphere. Sweeney Todd confronts the audience with an absurdly dark plot and an accumulation of corpses reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, rather than the light plot and happy ending usually associated with the musical.

Both Jonathan Roxmouth and Charon Williams-Ros gave sterling performances. Although I have seen Roxmouth in other productions, I find it difficult to imagine either of them as anything other than their characters. Williams-Ros brought a cheeky swagger to the stage while Roxmouth’s imposing physique and matching voice demanded the audience’s attention.

What most impressed me, however, was how polished the production was. At no point during the production did any member of the ensemble break character. They were all in perfect rhythmic harmony.

Sweeney Todd is spectacular, impressive, highly enjoyable, and delivers on every promise that the “pleasure machine” of musical theatre makes.

References:

Brantley, B. 2009. London’s musicals: Intimate or outsize. New York Times.http://theater.nytimes.com/2009/07/08/theater/08brantley.html?pagewanted=all (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

Gänzl, K. 2006. Musical theatre. In: Chambers, C. (red.). 2006. The continuum companion to twentieth century theatre.http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780199754724.001.0001/acref-9780199754724-e-1900 (Date of access: 17 January 2013).

New York Show Tickets. 2008. The advent of the Broadway mega musical.http://www.nytix.com/Links/Broadway/megamusicals.html (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

Rebellato, D. 2010. Theatre and globalization: Are we in an age of globalized theatre? Telegraphhttp://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/jan/18/mega-musicals-theatre-west-end (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

—. 2011. Does mega-musical boom mean theatre’s bust? The Guardian.http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2011/jan/18/mega-musicals-theatre-west-end (Date of access: 19 December 2012).

“Black and Blue.”

By: The Fortune Cookie Theatre Company
Featuring: Sylvaine Strike and Atandwa Kani
Directed by: James Cuningham
Produced by: Kosie House of Theatre and The Market Theatre
31 October, 20:00
The Market Theatre

Too often, I go to the theatre to find a play that was conceived to be a film or a short story. In these cases, theatre struggles to emulate the strengths of other media, appearing to be the inferior and old-fashioned big sister of more exciting artistic ventures. Other times, I go to the theatre to find something that take advantage of what makes theatre unique and results in a magical experience. These performances cannot be reproduced or captured. As an audience member I feel privileged to experience such a performance, knowing that those fleeting moments are all the more special because it could only be experienced in that time, at that place, with those people. The Fortune Cookie Theatre Company’s Black and Blue is one of these magical experiences.

As with this theatre company’s previous successes such as Coupé (one of my all-time favourite theatrical experiences) and The Table, the narrative of Black and Blue is quite simple. The play is set in 1980s South Africa where the white, middle class Mrs Swart’s husband hangs himself from a tree. Unable to cope with this loss, Mrs Swart confines herself to her house until a prospective gardener, Jackson, knocks on her door and eventually persuades her to employ him. The two of them form a special bond through gardening and Mrs Swart manages to come to terms with the tragic death of her husband.

A plot as simple as this runs the risk of being presented in a clichéd and kitsch way, but under James Cuningham’s direction, the cast manages to work against the grain of these stereotyped characters. Being performed in an overtly stylized way, the characters first become flat surfaces before they slowly come to life as the play progresses. This not only questions the stereotypes, but also enables the characters to break free from them.

The play relies mostly on physical theatre in its expression. There is very little dialogue with the result that any symbolism and metaphors are handled in a subtle way. The audience needs to interact imaginatively with the play to be able to interpret it, which adds to the thrill of the experience. A mise-an-abyme is also very cleverly used to represent certain events. Mrs Swart’s husband’s suicide, for example, is shown to the audience using dolls on a small scale model of the set that is attached to a wheel-barrow and wheeled onto the stage. This is a very effective way to show the audience events that are difficult to stage without breaking the quiet, dramatic yet hysterically funny atmosphere of the play.

Comical interactions between the two characters take on absurd measures. Mrs Swart presents Jackson with his lunch: tea and a tin of pilchards. She does not, however, give him a tin-opener. Unable to open the tin, Jackson leaves the pilchards untouched which, in turn, offends Mrs Swart who wonders why he would not like tinned fish. Exasperated, she tries to justify her decision not to give Jackson fresh fish by telling her (invisible) friend, Maureen, that “a pilchard was once a fresh fish!” Later, Mrs Swart has a nightmare presented in a fantastic dream sequence. The audience can hear the sound of water flooding a house. Mrs Swart stands on the furniture to avoid it, but gets taken by the stream. With perfect comic timing a pilchard tin then appears in the round window in the front door, moving like a fish. A few seconds later, an entire school of pilchard tins move past the window, to Mrs Swart’s consternation. This is absolutely bizarre and brilliant.

Black and Blue is a play that is carefully planned, perfectly executed and possibly the most rewarding theatre experience that I had in a long time. Strike and Kani are gifted performers and, as always, I look forward to see The Fortune Cookie Theatre Company’s next production.

 

AARDKLOP 2015: “Siener in die Suburbs.”

Deur: P.G. du Plessis
Met: Shaleen Surtie-Richards, Christo Davids, Brendon Daniels, Ivan Abrahams, Crystal-Donna Roberts, Dann-Jacques Mouton en Andrea Frankson
Regie deur: Heinrich Reisenhofer
9 Oktober: 9:00
Ouditorium

Siener in die Suburbs is die eerste maal in 1971 deur die Transvaalse Raad vir die Uitvoerende Kunste (TRUK) opgevoer. In pas met die kitchen sink dramas wat sedert die 1950s op veral Britse verhoë gesien is (Law, 2011: 276), skets Siener in die Suburbs ’n toneel van armoede en desperaatheid. Soos die kitchen sink dramas het Siener in die Suburbs ook aanvanklik sommige middelklasgehore geskok en afgesit. Volgens die Clover Aardklop Feesgids (2015:24) kon hierdie gehore hulle nie indink dat daar werklik mense soos dié in Siener in die Suburbs bestaan nie.

Sedertdien het hierdie teks volksbesit geword. Dit het onder andere in 2002 ’n herlewing beleef met Sandra Prinsloo in die rol van Ma terwyl sy in die aanvanklike opvoering die rol van Tiemie vertolk het. Daar is verskeie redes waarom die stuk gewild bly. Vir my staan die uitstekend beheerde tempo uit; die manier waarop spanning stadig maar seker bou. Die klimaks is onvermydelik maar steeds skokkend. Die balans tussen die komiese en die tragiese is fyn en gepas. Die karakters is volrond: op die verhoog word hulle ménse. Hulle is nie bloot personasies of spreekbuise vir die dramaturg nie. Die stuk is lank genoeg vir die gehoor om betrokke te raak by hul doen en late. Soos die gemeenskappe wat die inspirasie was vir Siener in die Suburbs, bestaan hierdie mense.

Daarom is Heinrich Reisenhofer se verplasing van die drama na die hedendaagse Kaapse Vlakte moeiteloos. Klein veranderings is aangebring. In plaas daarvan dat Fé en Albertus na Tiemie se nuwe plaat moet gaan luister, moet hulle na haar nuwe CD luister en die 1948-Buick is vervang met ’n Volkswagen Citi Golf. Behalwe vir opgedateerde kostuums en rekwisiete was die opvoering baie getrou aan die teks (ek het veral die “spreuk” wat lyk asof dit by Mr Price Home gekoop is geniet).

Die aspek wat my egter die meeste beïndruk het was die uitmuntende spel. Hierdie produksie wys wat die kombinasie van fantastiese akteurs en ’n uitstekende teks kan bied. Elke akteur het reg laat geskied aan sy of haar volronde karakter. Christo Davids verstaan Tjokkie se siniese onbetrokkenheid. Crystal-Donna Roberts weet dat Tiemie nie eintlik in die Suburbs hoort nie en bestem is vir beter dinge. Shaleen Surtie-Richards wórd Ma in haar wysheid en empatie maar ook in haar swakheid. Ivan Abrahams se onopregte glimlag soos hy, as die opportunistiese Giel, vir Tjokkie teister bly my steeds by. My enigste punt van kritiek is dat Brendon Daniels nie altyd goed genoeg geartikuleer het nie, hoewel hy absoluut oortuig het as die boelie, Jakes.

Verplasings van gekanoniseerde dramas is tot ’n sekere mate ’n dobbelspel. Dit kan óf ’n dawerende sukses wees, of ’n vreeslike flop. Heinrich Reisenhofer se Siener in die Suburbs is ’n dawerende sukses.

Bronnelys:

Aardklop. 2015. Clover Aardklop Feesgids. [Potchefstroom].

Law, Jonathan., ed. 2011. The Methuen drama dictionary of the theatre. London: Methuen.

AARDKLOP 2015: “Sandton City Grootdoop.”

Deur: Wessel Pretorius
Met: Hannah Borthwick, Roeline Daneel, Joanie Combrink
Regie deur: Wolf Britz
8 Oktober: 20:00
Boys’ High

“My humor is gewaagd, dit val nie in almal se smaak nie.”

Problematiese ma-dogter verhoudings is die spil waarom menige toneelstukke draai en dit is maklik om te sien waarom. In onder meer Tracy Letts se August: Osage County (2007), Pearl Cleage se Hospice (1987) en Marsha Norman se ’Night, Mother (1983) dryf ’n konfrontasie tussen ’n ma en dogter tot ’n groot mate die handeling. Diepliggende kwessies, ontwikkel deur oorerwing of kondisionering, word oor dekades toegelaat om te broei en te gis en word eindelik opgehaal en gekonfronteer.

Wessel Pretorius se Sandton City Grootdoop volg ook hierdie patroon en slaag tot ’n groot mate daarin. In hierdie drama is die ma ’n teatrale verhoogaktrise, Kara, gespeel deur Joanie Combrink. Combrink se uitmuntende uitbeelding van hierdie pretensieuse, selfgesentreerde aktrize sorg alreeds vir heelwat vermaak. In ’n dramatiese swart rok, hemelhoë spykerhakke en tulband, artikuleer en projekteer sy in haar alledaagse lewe asof sy op ’n verhoog is. Haar keurige Afrikaans skep die indruk dat alles wat sy sê reguit uit ’n Eitemal-vertaling kom, hoewel sy eerder sal sterf as om te erken dat sy oudmodies is. Wanneer haar dogters nie lag vir haar grappe nie, kap sy as volg terug: “my humor is gewaagd, dit val nie in almal se smaak nie.”

Dit word gou duidelik dat hoewel Kara en haar jongste dogter, Lisa (Hannah Borthwick), op die oog af heelwat verskil, dit eerder hul ooreenkomste is wat hul laat bots – baie soos Letts se karakters Violet en Barbara in August: Osage County. Darenteen is die onseker en koddige Danél (Roeline Daneel) vasgevang in die konflik tussen haar jonger suster en ma. Tog bereik sy ook háár breekpunt en dwing haar ma en suster om haar ook in ag te neem.

Daar is dus genoeg stof om hierdie drama interessant te maak. Die ensemble het mekaar goed aangevul en hul komiese tydsberekening was in die kol. Tog het ek (soos soveel maal tevore) gevoel dat die karakters (veral Lisa) die gehoor te veel direk aanspreek en vir hulle dít vertel wat eerder uitgebeeld kan word. Dit veroorsaak dat die drama korter en meer oppervlakkig is as wat dit kon wees, gegewe die komplekse temas.

Desnieteenstaande sorg Sandton City Grootdoop vir ’n aangename teaterervaring en is Joanie Combrink se spel alleen genoeg rede om dit te gaan kyk.

AARDKLOP 2015: “Hemelruim.”

Deur: Nick Payne, vertaal deur Nico Scheepers
Met: Tinarie van Wyk Loots en Paul du Toit
Regie deur: Nico Scheepers
8 Oktober: 9:00
Gimmies

WAARSKUWING: INTRIGEBEDERWERS!

Volgens Humberto Maturana (in De Kock, 2008:88) bestaan ons nie binne ’n enkele heelal (of universe) nie, maar binne ’n veelvuldige een (’n multiverse). Maturana verwys só daarna aangesien hierdie veelvuldige heelal voortdurend herskep word binne elke individu se bewussyn. Met ander woorde, die heelal soos ek dit waarneem is nie dieselfde as die heelal soos jy dit waarneem nie, hoewel albei weergawes geldig is. Elke gebeurtenis het dus ’n magdom alternatiewe weergawes, afhangende van hoeveel mense dit ervaar het. Daarmee saam kompliseer die keuses wat ons uitoefen ook hierdie situasie aangesien elke keuse wat nié uitgeoefen word nie steeds alternatiewe weergawes bied tot die narratief van ’n individu se lewe soos hy of sy dit ervaar.

Daarom wys Heelal nie vir ons die enkelvoudige narratief van hoe Mariaan (Tinarie van Wyk Loots) en Roelof (Paul du Toit) ontmoet by ’n braai, ’n verhouding aanknoop, later uitmaak omdat een van hulle ontrou was en dan weer bymekaar uitkom voordat Mariaan voortydig weens ’n breingewas sterf nie. Die drama wys vir ons grepe van die verskillende moontlike uitkomste van hierdie gegewe. Tog word die breë verhaallyn nie verwater deur hierdie “wat as” speletjie nie. Soos Charles Spencer (2012) tereg uitwys, ondersoek die drama die implikasies van vrye wil en toeval en die vermenigvuldiging van gebeure op die verhoog word later oorweldigend en angswekkend. Die akteurs slaag daarin om deur middel van ’n gefragmenteerde teks samehangende karakters te skep waarby die gehoor emosioneel aanklank vind.

Elke aspek van die produksie was weldeurdag en is ingespan om ’n afgeronde eindproduk te skep. Die teks is uitstekend en die vertaling en verplasing na Kaapstad was moeiteloos. Marianne is ’n dosent in kosmologie aan die Universiteit van Kaapstad en sy vertel dus vir Roelof (en die gehoor) van die idee van ’n multiverse. Op die verhoog hang ’n groepering geel gloeilampe wat aan die hemelruim herinner. Verskillende kombinasies van hierdie gloeilampe verhelder by tye soos die karakters ’n ander weergawe van die plotgegewe uitbeeld. Die atmosferiese klankontwerp het ook bygedra om spanning te bou. Die kostuums is met klein veranderinge deur middel van onder andere serpe en haarbande gevarieer.

Ongelukkig was die gehoor deurentyd onrustig. ’n Hele paar selfoonliggies het gedurig aangegaan. Ek dink ook nie hierdie bepaalde skoolsaal was die regte venue vir Hemelruim nie – ek sou die stuk graag in ’n klein, intieme teater wou sien. Ten spyte hiervan, is Hemelruim my Aardklop-hoogtepunt van 2015. Die akteurs en produksiespan verdien ’n pluimpie vir hierdie verfrissende opvoering.

Bronnelys:

De Kock, Leon. 2008. “Making the body public.” English Academy Review, 25(2):88-100.

Spencer, Charles. 2012. “Constellations, at the Royal Court, review: Constellations by Nick Payne. The Telegraph: 20 January. Online: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/theatre-reviews/9027655/Constellations-at-the-Royal-Court-review.html (Accessed: 22 October 2015.)

AARDKLOP 2015: “Kinders van Stilte.”

Deur: Mark Medoff, verwerk deur Antoinette Louw
Met: Zane Meas, Antoinette Louw, Vicki Fourie, Jason Farao
Regie deur: Heleni Handt
7 Oktober: 20:00
Girls’ High

Hierdie teks deur Mark Medoff het ’n baie spesifieke doel: om bewustheid rondom doofheid en die marginalisering van dowes te skep. Die handeling sentreer om Jeremy (Zane Meas), ’n spraakonderwyser by ’n skool vir dowes en Sandra (Vicki Fourie), ’n volwasse leerling wat weier om te leer praat en slegs deur gebaretaal kommunikeer. Sy het onttrek van die horende wêreld en sonder haarself af in die skool waar sy as skoonmaker werk. Ten spyte daarvan dat dit moeilik is vir Sandra en Jeremy om te kommunikeer, raak hulle verlief en trou. Omdat Jeremy Sandra se onderwyser was (hoewel sy reeds ’n volwassene was toe hulle ontmoet het) en hy kan hoor terwyl sy doof is, is daar ’n ongebalanseerde magsverhouding tussen hierdie twee karakters. Sandra weier egter om dit so te aanvaar en dring daarop aan dat Jeremy en die ander karakters haar situasie vanuit haar oogpunt sien, in plaas daarvan om namens haar besluite te neem.

Die stuk is opgevoer met minimale dekor wat verskeie funksies vervul. Skaduspel is ook op ’n slim manier ingespan om afstand tussen die gehoor en karakters te skep in sekere intense tonele. Verskeie randkarakters is deur Antoinette Louw vertolk – onder andere Sandra se ma wat aan alkoholisme ly en ’n prokureur wat regshulp verleen aan Sandra en ’n vriend van haar (vertolk deur Jason Farao). Louw se wisseling tussen hierdie karakters was moeiteloos. Ook Meas, Fourie en Farao se spel was oortuigend.

Fourie het veral beïndruk in die toneel waar sy Sandra se vrees om haar stem te laat hoor uitbeeld. Deur die hele drama is Sandra doodstil hoewel Jeremy aanhou om haar aan te por om haarself met haar stem uit te druk. Wanneer sy eindelik ’n geluid maak, is haar hoë kreet roerend.

Kinders van Stilte slaag daarin om ’n horende gehoor ’n blik te gee in die lewe van dowes. Hoewel ’n gedeelte van die kaartjieverkope aan die Nasionale Instituut vir Dowes geskenk word, is hierdie toneelstuk meer as slegs ’n traktaatjie. Dit beklemtoon die komplekse maniere waarop mense kommunikeer en wat horendes dikwels as vanselfsprekend aanvaar. Beide Fourie en Farao is doof of hardhorend en hierdeur dra die stuk self by om weerstand te bied teen die marginalisering van dowes.

AARDKLOP 2015: “Moeder Moed en Haar Kinders.”

Deur: Bertolt Brecht, vertaal en verwerk deur Saartjie Botha
Met: Aletta Bezuidenhout, Deon Lotz, André Roothman, Nicole Holm, De Klerk Oelofse, Geon Nel, Juliana Venter, Jacques Theron, Cintaine Schutte, Gerben Kamper, Greta van der Merwe, Altus Moolman
Regie deur: Jerry Mofokeng
7 Oktober: 14:30
Ouditorium

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) is een van die mees invloedryke teatermakers van die twintigste eeu. Saam met Erwin Piscator het hy die Epiese Teater ontwikkel wat ten doel het om teatergangers sover moontlik intellektueel, eerder as emosioneel, by die drama te betrek deur middel van ’n tegniek wat bekend staan as die verfremdungseffekt. Die Epiese Teater het ’n sterk Marxistiese inslag en beoog om die gehoor aan te spoor tot vernuwende politieke denke en aksie (Law, 2011:173). Daarom word die handeling van die drama dikwels onderbreek deur liedere en breek die akteurs soms karakter en spreek die gehoor direk aan. Die spelstyl vereis dat die akteurs nié emosioneel met die karakters identifiseer nie, maar die gebeure demonstreer asof hulle ’n ooggetuie is wat verslag doen oor ’n motorongeluk (Brecht, 1968:86).

Of ’n gehoor ooit doelbewus emosioneel onaangeraak kan bly en ’n drama slegs deur hul intellek kan ervaar is ’n punt wat al deur verskeie teaterteoretici betwis is. Ook Moeder Moed, wat aanvanklik geskryf is om burgerlike opportunisme tydens oorlogstye aan die kaak te stel, word nie noodwendig so geïnterpreteer nie. Volgens Law (2011:339) wen die hoofkarakter, Anna, dikwels eerder die gehoor se guns en simpatie as hul veragting soos sy keer op keer die verpletterende aanslae van die oorlog trotseer.

Moeder Moed is ’n episodiese drama. Die gehoor volg vir Anna oor ’n typerk van twaalf jaar waar sy met haar drie kinders en haar wa van plek tot plek trek en handel dryf met wie ookal bereid is om die hoogste prys aan te bied vir dit wat sy ookal verkwansel. Die oorlogskonteks sorg vir verskeie oomblikke van spanning en dramatiese klimakse. Binne Brecht se Epiese Teater sou hierdie episodes op ’n onbetrokke manier uitgebeeld word. Onder Jerry Mofokeng se regie was dit egter nie die geval in hierdie produksie nie.

Die akteurs het met hul karakters geïdentifiseer en, ek moet hier byvoeg, hul goed van hul taak gekwyt. Aletta Bezuidenhout het absoluut oortuig as Moeder Moed wat haar kinders soos ’n tierwyfie probeer beskerm, maar terselftertyd nie emosioneel raak nie en altyd, na enige terugslag, opstaan en aangaan. Die res van die ensemble het ook beïndruk: André Roothman as die sielewinner wat nie skroom om sy kerklike affiliasie aan te pas soos dit hom sal baat nie; De Klerk Oelofse as Moeder Moed se jongste seun, Switserkaas; Cintaine Schutte as die dogter, Kattrin, wat nie praat nie. Die teks is sterk beïnvloed deur die oplewing van kabaret in Duitsland tussen die twee wêreldoorloë en die karakters het die musikale gedeeltes van die teks met die nodige oemf uitgebeeld.

Een van die treffendse tonele in die drama is wanneer Kattrin na die wa terugkeer nadat sy aangerand en verkrag is. Wanneer die besef by Anna insink trek sy woordeloos die prostituut, Yvette, se rooi skoene vir Kattrin aan. Dit is ’n wrede en ontstellende oomblik wat sonder sentiment maar met heelwat emosie gewys is. Tog het dit verdwyn tussen ’n magdom klimakse wat elkeen emosionele betrokkenheid deur die gehoor vereis.

Die stuk het daarom vermoeiend en selfs by tye melodramaties geword. Dit was ook nie duidelik wanneer die stuk eindig nie, asof die drama later begin aankarring het. Ek skryf dit toe aan die kombinasie van die teks en die regiestyl. Miskien sou óf ’n minder betrokke inslag, óf ’n teks wat heelwat gesnoei is, ’n meer treffende teaterervaring tot gevolg gehad het.

Bronnelys:

Brecht, Bertolt. 1968. “The street scene: A basic model for an epic theatre.” Translated by John Willet. In: Bentley, E., ed. The theory of the modern stage: From Artaud to Zola: An introduction to modern theatre and drama. London: Penguin. pp. 85-96.

Law, Jonathan., ed. 2011. The Methuen drama dictionary of the theatre. London: Methuen.

 

AARDKLOP 2015: “Son.Maan.Sterre.”

Deur: Alice Birch, vertaal deur Saartjie Botha
Met: Louis van Niekerk, Lida Botha, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Wilhelm van der Walt en Greta Pietersen
Regie deur: Christiaan Olwagen
7 Oktober, 9:00
Boys’ High

WAARSKUWING: INTRIGEBEDERWERS!

Vyf karakters sit op ’n ry voor die gordyn en spreek die gehoor direk aan. Hulle deel hul mees intieme gedagtes. Dit word geleidelik duidelik hoe dié vyf se lewens inmekaargestrengel is: Oliver (Wilhelm van der Walt) is ’n briljante jong fisikus wat Kaap toe getrek het nadat hy sy PhD by Oxford opgeskop het. Bubbles Bothma (Greta Pietersen) woon saam met haar twee woonstelmaats langs Oliver. Die twee het mekaar nog nooit ontmoet nie, maar het mekaar al opgemerk en Bubbles het ’n crush op Oliver ontwikkel. Weens redes wat ek nie hier sal bekend maak nie, beland Oliver een oggend vroeg buite Megan (Tinarie van Wyk Loots) se hek. Sy teenwoordigheid ontsenu Megan met reg. Sy is ’n gefrustreerde, swanger huisvrou wat redelik aggressief voorkom. Háár buurman is die oudonderwyser, Robert (Louis van Niekerk), wat saam met sy gestremde vrou (Lida Botha) woon.

Die vertaling is geslaagd en die stuk is moeiteloos verplaas na die Kaap. Die dramaturg is baie goed in beheer van die tempo van hierdie drama. Al vyf akteurs (en natuurlik ook die regisseur) het hulle ook uitstekend van hul taak gekwyt in hierdie opsig. Spanning word deur een steurende onthulling na die ander gebou. Wanneer vier van die vyf karakters hulself by dieselfde mark bevind word hul emosionele wroegings op ’n heel sinvolle wyse ook visueel uitgebeeld. Die gordyn gaan oop en helium-ballonne wat in ’n formasie aan die verhoog vasgemaak is word sigbaar. Daar is ook ’n reuse haasballon wat stadig opgeblaas word soos die stuk voortgaan. Wanneer Megan van aangesig tot aangesig met Robert gekonfronteer word – en dít nadat sy pas uitgevind het dat hy ’n veroordeelde kindermolesteerder is – gryp sy ’n mes en begin van die balonne lossny en ander bars. Sy steek ook ’n gat in die reuse haasballon wat dan stadig maar seker weer afblaas. Dit was ’n besonder treffende manier om die spanning en gevoel van verwarring wat reeds deur uitstekende toneelspel uitgebeeld word, te beklemtoon.

Son.Maan.Sterre is hoog aangeprys deur onder meer Laetitia Pople in Die Burger en ’n mens kan sien waarom. Die stuk roer baie ontstellende temas aan en die spel was puik. Tog was dit nie my persoonlike Aardklop-hoogtepunt nie, hoofsaaklik vanweë kontekstuele kwessies. Die styl van hierdie drama, vertelling vermeng met minimale handeling, het beslis ’n plek binne die uitvoerende kunste maar dit word té dikwels op Afrikaanse verhoë gesien. Karakters neig om ’n mikrofoon te neem en vir die gehoor dít wat eerder gewys kan word te vertel. Verder word Tinarie van Wyk Loots en Greta Pietersen te gereeld in dieselfde tipe rolle gesien. Ek kan verstaan waarom: hulle is baie goed daarmee om onderskeidelik die ernstige vrou wat nie skroom om te vloek nie en die naïewe, maltrap blondine uit te beeld. Dit het ongelukkig die gevolg dat dit vir my voel of ek dieselfde toneelstuk oor en oor kyk.

Maar, ek is miskien nou onregverdig teenoor ’n toneelstuk wat heelwat trefkrag het en ’n rolbesetting en regisseur wat reg daaraan laat geskied.