“Marikana: The Musical.”

Book and Director: Aubrey W. Sekhabi
Composer and Musical Director: Mpho Mckenzi Matome
Choreographer: Thabo Rapoo
Set, Lighting and Video Designer: Wilhelm Disbergen
Costume Coordinator and Senior Stage Manager: Irene Moheedi Mathe
Sound Engineer: Richard Mitchell
Assistant Sound Engineer: Zwelibanzi Jan
Assistant Director: Tshepo Ratona
Featuring: Meshack Mavuso, Aubrey Poo, Mpho Mackenzie Matome, Segomotso Simon Modise, Simphiwe Shakhane, Simphiwe Emma Mmekwa, Mathapelo Masilela, Siyasanga Catherine Papu, Terrence Ignacious Ngwila, Jabulani Wiseman Mthembu, Njabulo Ntaka, Nkululeko Khutshwa, Vuyo Sishuba, Sbongiseni Mnguni, Thabiso Zondi, Saviour Mthethwa, Sibonelo Mdlalose (leading cast), Kgaugelo James Sithole, Steven Mokone, Phelokazi Maphitshi, Given Wiseman Maziya, Mohlalefi Ernest Mokete, Pholoso Mohlala, Mpho Maifadi, Masego Peele, Georgina Nwa-manabele Mabasa, Refuwe Mofokeng, Mpho Sewela, Kabelo Moshidi, Veli Mavuso, Remember Maluleka, Bongani Mthombeni, Sfiso Matlala, Tinyiko Mkhabela, Sydney Gwadiso (chorus and dancers)
Executive Producer: Aubrey Sekhabi
Stage Manager: Joseph Mogale
Assistant Stage Manager: Bafana Dladla
Follow Spot Operators: Evelyn Mpheteng, Athini Ncayo
Band: Oupa Makhubela (Guitarist), Zakhele Mabena (Pianist), Kelvin James (Bass Guitarist), Yisrael Mutale Mashabela (Keyboard), Itumeleng Mmutlana (Drummer)
11 August 2017, 20:00
South African State Theatre, Pretoria


Well executed, necessary, but not avoiding the pitfalls of supposedly “documentary” theatre

The tragic events at Marikana on this day in 2012 is undoubtedly one of the most important events in the history of South Africa. It was a shocking concretization of the failures of, not only the management of Lonmin Platinum, but also the mineworkers’ unions, the South African police force, and a government who has not delivered on a promise of a better life for all. And yet, behind the newspaper reports, political analysis, and outrage, there were real people who had lost their lives.

Therefore, when I first read the title, “Marikana: The Musical,” it seemed to be an oxymoron. I expected a dark musical that commented on the viral mediation of the unfortunate events with detached cynicism. I was a little disappointed to read in the director’s note that the musical aimed to be, just like the book that it is based on, a “blow-by-blow account” of the events at Marikana. Sekhabi states that he aimed to remain faithful the book, We Are Going To Kill Each Other Today: The Marikana Story (2013), which he describes as “a ‘warts and all’ account of who did what that told the facts without taking sides.”

The musical therefore aims to be an unbiased documentary account of what happened. I have written elsewhere about historical fiction (particularly within the genre of musical theatre) that aims to present itself as objective truth. Such a venture is impossible – a point to which I shall return.

That being said, “Marikana: The Musical” is an engaging theatre experience and I think that it is important for South Africans to be reminded of the event in question and to honour those who lost their lives. The historical events lend themselves effortlessly to the genre, since song was integrally part of the strike, as Sekhabi mentions in his programme note. The choreography aptly represented scenes of the police marching, the mine workers striking, and the conflict between these two groups. The accessibility of the genre is also appropriate, since this is a story that needs to be told widely.

Furthermore, the set was functional and effective. As the show starts, the performers are lifted from the stage floor on a platform. As the show ends, the players on the platform are again lowered into the stage floor. This quite effectively resembles miners being raised from and lowered into a mineshaft, working underground where their fate is easily forgotten, not only by the managing structures of the mine, but also the consumers of the precious metals and minerals that the miners unearth. The stage is quite empty apart from a mineshaft and the now infamous koppie where the striking mineworkers gathered. A wire structure doubled to both represent the koppie and be an “orchestra pit” for the band. The band is visible onstage, but at the same time safely secluded from the events.

There are also actors that need to be singled out for their performances. Aubrey Poo’s representation of Commander Nyoka was compelling. He effortlessly attracts attention to himself and elicited quite a reaction from the audience on the nigt that I attended, although this might be due to his roles in the soapies Muvhango and Scandal! I found Phelokazi Maphitshi’s portrayal as a police officer haunting. Her role may have been modest, but her face conveyed a complex mix of emotions, where fear and uncertainty is masked through discipline. It is as if her character knew from the start what the outcome would be, but had little choice in how the events were handled.

Unfortunately, the transitions from music to dialogue were not always smooth, and the production tended to be too sentimental at times, which brings me to my issue with fiction that tries to sell itself as objective truth. Whereas “Marikana: The Musical” indeed does not take sides as far as the miners and police are concerned and shows the humanity of both groups, these are not the only role players in the events. The journalists covering the events as well as Ziyaad, the panga salesman, were represented as stereotypical caricatures, far removed from the reality of the events. Lonmin’s management is depicted as undeniably evil and Riah Phiyega as a caricature. While I am in no way suggesting that Lonmin’s management or Riah Phiyega are innocent victims in the Marikana story, their cartoonish representation, where the lines between good and evil are easily drawn, undermines any attempt of the production to be an objective account that does not take sides.

In my discussion of Deon Opperman’s “Tree Aan!,” I sharply criticize the production for presenting a suspect ideological viewpoint (that justifies the border war) as fact. While I cannot disagree with where “Marikana: The Musical” lays the blame for the massacre, the fact that it is blind to its own fictionality leaves me slightly uncomfortable.


Dlangamandla, Felix; Jika, Thanduxolo; Ledwaba, Lucas; Mosamo, Sebabatso; Saba, Athandiwe; & Sadiki, Leon. 2013. We Will Kill Each Other Today: The Marikana Story. Tafelberg: Cape Town.

Sekhabi, Aubrey. 2017. “Writer’s and Director’s Note.” Marikana: The Musical. Programme, p. 4.



20170810_222401[1]By: Harold Pinter
Directed by: Greg Homan
Featuring: Antony Coleman, Carly Graeme, Tom Fairfoot, José Domingos
Produced by: Daphne Kuhn
17 June 2017, 18:00
Auto & General Theatre on the Square, Johannesburg


In writing this post, I feel a little apprehensive. I know the play, Betrayal, very well – as in Betrayal-is-one-of-the-plays-my-doctorate-was-on well – and it always seems a bit unfair to then judge a performance of such a play, since no production can compete with the imaginary one in my imagination.

The play is about a love triangle between Robert (Antony Coleman), Emma (Carly Graeme), and Jerry (Tom Fairfoot). Robert and Emma are married while Robert and Jerry are best friends. The play is presented to the audience mostly in reverse chronological order. The audience’s first encounter with Jerry and Emma is two years after their affair has ended. Each subsequent scene shows more betrayals between the three characters, each entangled with the first, major betrayal, which is that of adultery. The audience, for example, learns that, not only has Emma betrayed her husband with Jerry, but she has also betrayed her lover by not telling him that her husband, his best friend, knows about the affair.

Greg Homan’s production is, despite what will follow in this post, an enjoyable theatre experience. The actors are convincing as three Londoners in the 1970s. The costumes and décor are functional and effective. However, I felt that the production did not put enough emphasis on the language of the play. According to Martin Esslin (1992:277), Pinter’s most valuable contribution to the stage is the way in which he exposes how stage dialogue tends to overestimate the way in which people actually use language. Pinter (2008) himself argued that language does not fail us, but that we use it to avoid, conceal, and evade:

I think we communicate only too well, in our silence, in what is unsaid, and that what takes place is a continual evasion, desperate rearguard attempts to keep ourselves to ourselves. Communication is too alarming. To enter into someone’s life is too frightening. To disclose to others the poverty within us is too fearsome a possibility.

Therefore the precise words that Pinter’s characters utter are extremely important. Changing a character’s lines – even ever so slightly – could alter a Pinter play quite significantly. I was therefore quite shocked that Jerry’s utterance in Scene One, when he tells Emma that he never had any suspicions that Robert were cheating on her (despite her assertion to the contrary) was changed. In the printed text, Jerry says:

For example, when you’re with a fellow in a pub, or a restaurant, for example, from time to time he pops out for a piss, you see, who doesn’t, but what I mean is, if he’s making a crafty telephone call, you can sort of sense it, you see, you can sense the pip pip pips. Well, I never did that with Robert. He never made any pip pip telephone calls in any pub I was ever with him in. The funny thing is that it was me who made the pip pip calls – to you, when I left him boozing at the bar. (26)

In Homan’s production, the “pip pip pips” were cut. While this might not seem to be an important omission at first glance, it forms an important onomatopoeic link with Robert’s “whoomp,” later in Scene Four, when he explains how he travelled to Torcello in a speed boat. Both these utterances show how language is more than words. How people create their own meanings as they go along. How words do not live in dictionaries, but in the mind, in Virginia Woolf’s (1974:205) words.

In addition, Pinter’s plays demands from the actor an approach which differs greatly from the ubiquitous Method Acting. According to Hanna Scolnicov (2012:8), Pinter plays require “a hyperrealistic fidelity to external appearances together with an opaqueness that deliberately refuses to suggest motives or inner workings of the mind.” Pinter’s characters often try to hide their emotions, with only the tiniest gestures hinting that there may be more lurking beneath the surface than what their words suggest. Peter Hall (2005:137-8) refers to this as “veiling” and suggests that actors playing Pinter’s characters portray various, conflicting emotions, each masking the other.

In Homan’s production, I felt that the characters were doing the opposite of this: they over-emoted when their emotional portrayal should have been more nuanced and subtle, and, on the other hand, they underplayed key moments in the respective characters’ emotional arcs. For example, when Jerry and Emma dissolve their affair in Scene Three, Graeme’s Emma was too visibly upset. At the end of the scene, when she struggles to remove the apartment’s key from her keyring, this action seems superfluous. If she had underplayed the scene, the struggle with the keyring would have betrayed her emotions, rather than merely emphasizing an already loaded situation.

On the other hand, in Scene Five, when Robert confronts Emma about her affair with Jerry, she seems too calm. She does not appear to be distressed or cornered by Robert’s insistent questions. It is therefore not clear why she confesses to the affair. When Robert asks her why she is shaking, she does not seem to be shaking at all and this question subsequently does not make sense. Instead of menacing, Robert now comes across as babbling.

Similarly, in Scene Nine, when Jerry first seduces Emma, Fairfoot’s delivery was not urgent enough. Instead of drunkenly pretentious, Jerry was nonchalantly rambling away. A very important plot point in this scene is that Emma rejects Jerry’s advances until Robert enters. When he seems nonplussed by what is obviously a seduction of his wife, Emma responds to Jerry after Robert exits. However, at the point when Emma is still rejecting Jerry’s advances, she seems (appropriately) uncomfortable and – yet – very close to the door. It is not clear why she does not simply leave while Jerry is (seemingly) incoherently rambling on.

These subtle changes in emphasis therefore make the characters’ motivations unclear at times. Despite a clever, functional set and overall smooth delivery, I unfortunately feel that this performance did not reach its full potential.


Esslin, Martin. 1992. Pinter: The playwright. London: Methuen Drama.

Hall, Peter. 2005. “Peter Hall: Peter Hall interviewed by Catharine Itzin and Simon Trussler in Theatre Quarterly, No. 16, 1974.” In: Smith, I., ed. Pinter in the theatre. London: Nick Hern. pp. 131-157.

Pinter, Harold. 2008. “The echoing silence.” The Guardian, 31 December. Online: http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2008/dec/31/harold-pinter-early-essay-writing/print (Accessed: 4 December 2013.)

Pinter, Harold. 1978. Betrayal. London: Faber.

Scolnicov, Hanna. 2012. The experimental plays of Harold Pinter. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

Woolf, Virginia. 1974. The death of the moth and other essays. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich: San Diego.


Direction and design: Brett Bailey
Dramaturg and author: Eyad Houssami
Sound design: Manolis Manousakis
Lighting design: Colin Legras
Videos: Catherine Henegan
Featuring: Magd Asaad, Robert Ian Ouko Kibet Babu, Sandrella Dakdouk, Françoise Hémy, Françoise Hémy, Muna Mussie, Nidal Sultan, Lionel Tomm
Technical Director and production manager: Miguel Munoz
Sound and video engineer: Carlo Thompson
Company and stage management: Helena Erasmus
Construction: Foivos Kouvdos
Illustration and graphic design: Roger Williams
Set: Ray Studios
Props: Velissarios Sirmakentzis
Soundscape “Neroli”: Brian Eno
Programming: Alexandros Drymonitis
Piano: Constantinos Evangelidis
Production and general manager: Barbara Mathers
Production manager: Jan Ryan
Management: UK Arts International / Third World Bunfight
10 June 2017, 20:00
Theater der Welt, Hamburg, Germany

Brett Bailey’s “Sanctuary” is quite an interesting experience. The audience is taken in small groups through a labyrinth of wire fencing depicting the experience of refugees. As an audience member, you are treated as a refugee. Talking is prohibited and you are subjected to the constant waiting for (fictional) bureaucratic processes to be finalized before a green light permits you to progress through the labyrinth. There are times of seemingly senseless waiting.

The first room that the audience enters is a waiting room. Promotional photos of Europe are projected onto a screen. These photos later stand in stark contrast to the lived reality of the characters in the rest of the installation. The audience proceed to view tableaux of various people affected by the current refugee crisis. Each of their stories is written on a placard in front of them. They include a man who risked everything to give his baby a better life, now stranded among debris in a harbour. There is a musician in a hostel room among broken instruments and debris, writing to his mother about the beautiful apartment that he stays in and the symphony orchestra that he is a member of. Next the audience sees a woman in a wheelchair whose arms have been amputated. She sits in front of a shop window advertising Black Friday promotions while the audience can read how she was sold into slavery and raped on a daily basis. The audience also sees a Somalian woman who works as a sex slave and a disillusioned photographer/translator who has heard the line, “after seeing this footage, the world will know,” too many times.

At some point, men and women are separated. There is another waiting period. Then the audience enters the apartment of a 74 year old woman. She is lonely. She knits, apparently without purpose, as her knitting reaches the floor and does not seem to resemble a shape. There is a display case with Hungarian dolls and two fish in a bowl. Next in line is a municipal worker in Berlin. Although he says that he was sympathetic towards the refugees’ situation initially, he now fears that they are posing a threat. The last tableau shows a man on a coast in France. He is disillusioned about the boundaries that Europe is now protecting so fiercely after invading Africa for centuries.

The installation is surely interesting. It shows the audience something of the human experience behind the statistics and news flashes regarding the refugee crisis. Since I am very curious when viewing any type of performance, I looked intently at each performer, not looking away when they each made slow and steady eye contact. Yet, this was only possible within the fictional context of the installation. Whereas one tends to avert one’s eyes when confronted directly with poverty or misfortune – not only because it would be inappropriate to gawk – but also because eye contact in such a situation is too intense, too raw, the fictional context of the performance makes the audience member’s interaction with the tableaux socially “safe.” Nevertheless, it remains disconcerting because of the knowledge that the events in the installation are based on fact.

However, I walked away from the installation feeling a sense of disappointment. Although poignant, the piece felt a little predictable. It did not challenge the audience in any way or find innovative ways of dealing with the content. Of course, it is important that the broader public are made aware of the events that this installation is based on. The installation addresses an international crisis that needs intervention. Yet, I did not feel that “Sanctuary” shifted any artistic or conceptual boundaries.

“Los Incontados: Anatomy of Violence in Colombia: Triptych.”

Direction: Heidi and Rolf Abderhalen
Set design: Pierre-Henry Magnin
Costume design: Elizabeth Abderhalen
Lighting design: Jean-François Dubois
Multimedia: Luis Antonio Delgado, Natalia Duarte, Ximena Vargas
Sound design and live performance: Juan Ernesto Diaz
Featuring: Heidi Abderhalen, Agnes Brekke, Andrés Castañeda, Julián Díaz, Jeihhco, Danilo Jiménez, Santiago Nemirowki, Santiago Sepúlveda, Wilman Rodriguez
Mapa Teatro Children Band: Lesly Ramírez, Melanie Ramírez, Sofía Rodriguez, Mariana Saavedra, Dario Sinisterra, Sebastián Zúñiga
Producer: Mapa Teatro
9 June 2017, 21:00
Theater der Welt, Hamburg, Germany


Watching Mapa Teatro’s “Los Incontados,” which translates to “the uncounted,” is like visiting a museum. Behind a Perspex screen the production shows you tableaux depicting scenes of life in Colombia. The screen very intentionally keeps the audience at a distance, asking them to observe and judge for themselves.

The stage thus resembles a diorama. However, the back wall repeatedly gives way to reveal another space, as in a dream or a memory. The first tableau shows the audience a living room in the late 1960s. There is a children’s percussion band, poised, waiting. Yet, the revolution never begins. Instead, the back wall gives way to a garden party. Although the line “it is time to stop the party and start the revolution” is repeated, the decadence on stage merely erupts into chaos.

The audience is thus first shown an ostensibly innocent space: a living room resembling a childhood memory; thereafter a hedonistic party. In the last part of the play, these two spaces seem to spill into each other. Streamers from the garden party spill into the living room. Popping sounds are heard throughout; however, they do not represent gunshots from a revolution, but merely popping balloons and confetti guns.

“Los Incontados” therefore illuminates certain social difficulties in the Colombian context: a revolution that never seems to begin, being hijacked by a party that spirals into decadent chaos fuelled by cocaine. Yet, the audience is purposefully kept out of the events on stage. They are not invited to participate in the party, but asked to observe and draw their own conclusions.

“Burning Doors.”

Direction and dramaturgy: Nicolai Khalezin, Natalia Kaliada
Choreography: Bridget Fiske, Maryia Sazonava
Stage design: Nicolai Khalezin
Sound design and music: Richard Hammarton
Percussion: Alexander Lyulakin
Light and video design: Joshua Pharo
Production Manager: Andy George
Featuring: Pavel Haradnitski, Kiryl Kanstantsinau, Siarhei Kvachonak, Maryia Sazonava, Stanislava Shablinskaya, Andrei Urazau, Maryna Yurevich
Original testimony and guest performance: Maria Alyokhina
Producer: Belarus Free Theatre
8 June 2017, 19:00
Theater der Welt, Hamburg, Germany

“One of the safest places to be in the world is the stage.” – Frank Langella

As I greatly admire Pussy Riot, I was very excited when I saw the trailer for Belarus Free Theatre’s “Burning Doors,” featuring Maria Alyokhina. I was nervous that I would not be able to follow, since the play is in Belarusian and Russian with German subtitles. Luckily, English translations of the script were handed out to audience members who do not understand Russian, Belarusian, or German. I managed to scan about half of the script before the performance started, but to my delight, the production relies very much on physical theatre and it was possible to become completely immersed in the performance with only a vague idea of what the dialogue is about.

In fact, this was possibly the most impressive performance I have ever seen in my entire life. This is the type of performance that I usually only get to read about, but have never had the privilege to see; and that from the centre of the first row. To me, the performance was so thrilling and effective because it used the conventions of the theatre to its utmost to drive home, in a visceral – yet intellectual – manner, the cruelty and actuality of dictatorship, persecution, and torture. It shows the audience what imprisonment does, not only to the body, but also to the mind, as Alyokhina puts it so hauntingly in the second scene: “It’ll be six months before I realise I can say ‘no’ when the guards say ‘bend over’.”

The play is mostly set in a prison space. There is a white square on which the action takes place, with three doors in a wall upstage. Scenes of incarceration and torture are accompanied by testimonies and memories from the lives of Alyokhina herself, and Oleg Sentsov, among others. These scenes are interspersed with the banal conversations of politicians and government officials who are wheeled in on platforms. These conversations convey the inevitable absurdity of dictatorial regimes and the ways in which it becomes impossible to keep the system in place without using bizarre levels of physical force, violence, and spin doctoring. The action becomes increasingly more and more physical towards the end, almost like a battle of endurance, and ends in Belarusian songs sung by the ensemble.

The audience is repeatedly reminded that the events on stage, although performed, are not fictional. The line between theatre and real life is transgressed time and again, much to the discomfort of the audience. The fact that Alyokhina is featured in the play as a non-actor disrupts the suspension of disbelief that usually allows the audience to remain in the safe, dark space of the auditorium, easily able to distance themselves from the fictional events on stage. This idea is reinforced with metatheatrical references, as when Maria does not want to put on her costume in Scene Four, claiming that it is a prison robe. This again happens in Scene Six when the players attempt to recreate a scene where a baby is taken from a prisoner and handed to Alyokhina. When Yurevich asks Alyokhina to hand her the baby, Alyokhina replies: “Marina, I can’t just go backstage and return with a child. This is a theatre – a child isn’t waiting for you here like a prop.”

The refusal of the play to allow the audience to disappear into the safety of fictionality creates an intense awareness of vulnerability and danger. The events happening on stage are dangerous on various levels. Firstly, the theatre company faces persecution in their home country because of their involvement with Belarus Free Theatre. Secondly, the actors could get hurt during the performance. Thirdly, there is danger, in a social sense, in the breaking down of theatre’s fourth wall; in the refusal to let the audience retreat into comfort. The presence of water on stage further unnerves the audience, as water is one of the elements that resists the fictional and stubbornly remains its unpredictable self on stage, as Bert O. States (1985:377–8) suggests. In Scene Twelve, Masheka and Alyokhina sit in a bathtub filled with water. As Masheka gets out, Alyokhina recites a poem. Masheka returns to the tub and violently grabs Alyokhina by the neck and holds her head under water. Masheka pulls her back up to force her to recite the poem again and again. She is immersed for periods that become increasingly longer. This elicits an anxiety in the audience that very appropriately aligns with the real world events on which the play is based.

The play furthermore uses nudity very effectively. From the onset the players, as prisoners, are exposed as the guards search them. In Act Five, as Alyokhina narrates how she is first denied tampons or pads and then subjected to a gynaecological exam. During this narration, one of the players is suspended on ropes and splits. As the examination is described, a doctor shines a flashlight into her eyes, mouth, and crotch. The actress’ pubic hair is clearly visible on her panty line. In Scene Thirteen, Masheka tells of a man who was sentenced to death and was sure to die within twenty minutes when he was reprieved and given a different sentence. The tale of how the man coped with the certainty of death is told as Masheka is first completely naked, and then slowly dresses. First his shirt, then his socks, tie and jacket and lastly his underpants and pants. He cries throughout the monologue. In the last scene of the play, Masheka is suspended on ropes, only wearing underpants, during a scene of torture. Unable to bear it any longer, he starts urinating. These intimate scenes do not only point to how persecution and imprisonment robs people of their dignity but also requires a level of vulnerability from the actors that is astonishing.

Furthermore, the play must be incredibly taxing on the actors on a physical level. In one scene, three actors burst through the three doors, running full speed toward the audience, yelling. Just as they reach the first row, with their arms outstretched, almost touching the audience, they are yanked back by harnesses and pulled back. They break free and run towards the audience again, just to be yanked back once more. This sequence happens numerous times. As I was sitting in the front row, it was quite frightening to have the actors sprinting towards me. Their desperate hands, trying to clutch at me was unnerving. There is also a sequence near the end of the play where one of one of the actors tries to get another in a headlock. The second actor escapes the headlock time and again, but the first does not give up. The actors repeat this sequence for several minutes. While it must surely be exhausting for the actors, it also becomes difficult to watch. At some point I, as an audience member, felt that I was not able to look at the events on stage any longer. In this uncomfortable state, the cruel realisation sinks in that nobody is supposed to have to endure so many assaults on the body. And yet, Oleg Sentsov has eighteen years left to serve as I type this.

However, “Burning Doors” achieves so much more than raising awareness. The audience are more than mere spectators. They become part of the visceral experience of the performance. By making supposedly safe space of the stage – and by implication the auditorium – unsafe, Belarus Free Theatre conveys injustice and cruelty in the only way possible.


States, Bert O. 1985. Great reckonings in little rooms: On the phenomenology of theater. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Belarus Free Theatre. 2016. “Belarus Free Theatre: Burning Doors with Pussy Riot ‘s Maria Alyokhina (trailer).” YouTube, 6 September. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGiSsKSys7U (Accessed: 7 July 2017.)


Deur: Jannes Erasmus
Met: Zoricke Snyman, Jannes Erasmus, Diani Gernandt
Regie: Jannes Erasmus
Stel- en beligtingsontwerp: Wilhelm Disbergen
4 Maart 2017, 15:00
Staatsteater, Momentum.

Visueel treffend, maar navorsing ontbreek


Ten spyte van ’n swakgeskrewe programnota en ’n voorskou op YouTube wat die produksie, ten beste, na ’n intertekstuele gesprek met Fifty Shades of Grey en Fifity Shades Darker en, ten slegste, na ’n skaamtelose nabootsing van dieselfde films laat lyk, is “Stil” visueel treffend en toon die produksie potensiaal.

Nina en Stef is twee vyf en twingtigjariges wat mekaar in ’n kroeg ontmoet. Sy vertel dat haar ouers nooit getroud was nie, en hy noem dat syne geskei is. Hy is ’n skrywer en sy ’n kleuterskoolonderwyser. Grepe uit hul daaropvolgende verhouding word gewys, nie noodwendig in chronologiese volgorde nie: hulle besluit om saam in te trek, hulle trou egter nie – en dit blyk ’n teer puntjie te wees, sy het ’n diep begeerte om ’n ma te wees en raak swanger, hy is nie genoeë met die swangerskap nie. Daar is ’n paar tonele waarin hulle hewige argumente het; hy stap by die huis uit en sê vir haar dat sy op haar eie is. Hierdie tonele word afgewissel deur tonele waar Nina ondervra word deur ’n speurder. Een tafel en stoele verteenwoordig om die beurt die kroeg, Stef en Nina se huis, asook die ondervragingslokaal. Deur middel van projeksies teen die agterste muur en ’n verandering in beligting word die verskillende ruimtes baie effektief voorgestel.


Foto: Wilhelm Disbergen

Die gehoor kan dus aflei dat die gebeure gelei het tot ’n ernstige, kriminele insident en moet dus, saam met die speurder, probeer uitvind wat werklik gebeur het. Die idee dat die gehoor getuies word tot die gebeure en, soos ’n jurie, ’n uitspraak moet lewer oor wie skuldig is, word versterk deur die gehoor die geleentheid te gee om by ’n u-vormige ry tafels, wat die speelruimte omraam, te gaan sit, asof deel van ’n paneel wat die gebeure beoordeel. Leeslampe, wat aangeskakel word tydens die ondervragingstonele, en velle papier en penne voor elke sitplek verleen ’n verdere gevoel van outensiteit aan hierdie insluiting van die gehoor. Die verwagting word dus geskep dat hierdie drama ’n oop struktuur het. Volgens Keuris (1996) vereis dramas met ’n oop struktuur ’n eie interpretasie van die gehoor en word die gebeure in hierdie dramas nie so duidelik afgehandel soos in dramas met ’n geslote struktuur nie.


Foto: Wilhelm Disbergen

Aanvanklik lyk dit dan asof “Stil” juis die finale ontknoping van gebeure aan die gehoor sal oorlaat. Elke toneel in die produksie blyk ’n deel van ’n legkaart te wees, maar in plaas daarvan dat die gebeure al hoe duideliker word soos die legkaartstukke ’n prentjie vorm, moet die gehoor eerder al die gebeure wat hulle tot op daardie stadium gesien het, herinterpreteer soos elke nuwe legkaartstuk bykom. Hierdie tegniek word onderstreep deur die tonele af te wissel met monoloë wat aanvanklik uit lukrake sinsgrepe en frases bestaan maar soos die gebeure ontvou meer en meer betekenis kry. So weet die gehoor byvoorbeeld nie waarna die vraag “hoeveel keer?” aanvanklik verwys nie. Die ondervragingstonele suggereer eers dat Nina moontlik ’n kind ontvoer het, later dat Stef haar aangerand en verkrag het as hy te veel gedrink het, nog later dat Nina ’n drankprobleem het en aanhou drink het terwyl sy swanger was. “Hoeveel keer?” blyk dus te verwys na hoeveel keer Stef vir Nina aangerand het, hoeveel keer sy te veel gedrink het, hoeveel keer sy gedrink het terwyl sy swanger was, ensovoorts.

Nina se drankprobleem word beklemtoon deur ’n baie effektiewe visuele simbool. Onder die klein speelvlak waarop meeste van die handeling plaasvind staan honderde, identiese, blou botteltjies met ’n perserige vloeistof in. Dit lyk asof dit hier weggesteek word. Nog voordat die gehoor bewus is van Nina se drankprobleem, word hierdie botteltjies verlig tydens sekere tonele. Dit dien dus as voorbode en skep ’n sinister atmosfeer. Die plasing van die botteltjies onder die speelvlak herinner aan ’n kelder, ’n simbool vir dít wat onderdruk word. Die feit dat daar so baie van hulle is, suggereer dat Nina se probleem hand uitgeruk het – asof die botteltjies sonder haar medewete vermeerder het. Dit word duidelik dat Nina rooiwyn in botteltjies wegsteek en skelm drink. Die botteltjies het dus ook ’n praktiese funksie in die stuk. Saam met die bogenoemde narratiewe tegniek, werk hierdie simboliek uitstekend.


Foto: Sanmari Marais

Groot was my teleurstelling dus toe die belofte van ’n oop struktuur verbreek is teen die einde van die stuk. Hoewel die laaste toneel van “Stil” visueel absoluut asemrowend is, is dit ongelukkig ook ’n té netjiese ontknoping van die gebeure. Nina, hoewel vier maande swanger, is besope. Dit is duidelik nie die eerste of enigste keer wat dit gebeur nie. Daar is ’n rewolwer op die tafel. Sy is ontsteld omdat dit blyk dat Stef haar verlaat het. Sy aborteer dan self haar swangerskap met ’n breinaald. Sy begin bloei en terselftertyd val daar ’n emmer rooi vloeistof van bo af op die toneel. Hier moet ek noem dat dit ’n baie treffende oomblik is. Dit beklemtoon hoe gewelddadig, grusaam en onherroeplik hierdie tuisaborsie is. Ook is dit ’n uitstekende gebruik van die konvensies van teater: hierdie is die tipe voorstelling wat nie sal werk in ’n film, roman of gedig nie. Die gehoor moet teenwoordig wees om die vloeistof, soos ’n golf in die see, te sien naderkom, hulle ruik die “Jannie-verjaar-koeldrank” wat herinneringe van onskuldige kinderpartytjies oproep. Ook kan die aktrise nie ontsnap van die taai vloeistof nie – sy moet die res van die toneelstuk papsopnat deurspeel.


Foto: Sanmari Marais

Stef kom kort na die tuisaborsie by die huis en, voor hy bewus word van die skynbare slagting wat plaasgevind het, blyk dit dat hy wel nou kans sien om pa te word en Nina nie wil verlaat nie. Wanneer hy besef wat sy gedoen het, probeer hy haar help. Sy sê egter dat sy ook nou, soos hy, ’n gedig geskryf het en dra it dan voor aan die oorlede, ongebore baba wat sy in haar hand blyk vas te hou. Sy en Stef raak betrokke in ’n argument en sy rig die rewolwer op hom. Hy let haar daarop dat daar nagevolge sal wees as sy voortgaan om hom dood te skiet. Sy bieg dat sy die moord al lank beplan en dit soos selfverdediging gaan laat lyk: sy het dan ook selfs vir maande lank vals dagboekinskrywings gemaak wat vertel hoe Stef haar aanrand en verkrag. Die gehoor besef dus hier dat Nina gejok het tydens ondervraging en dat die weergawe van gebeure waarin Stef haar mishandel, nooit werklik gebeur het nie, maar deel van Nina se plan was om vir Stef te vermoor. Die ligte gaan af voordat Nina vir Stef vier maal skiet.

Ten spyte van die fenomenologiese trefkrag van hierdie toneel, kelder die narratief daarvan die ganse toneelstuk. Hoewel “Stil” dus voorgee om enige finale beslissings aan die gehoor oor te laat, word daar in werklikheid vir die gehoor uitgespel wat presies gebeur. Verder spreek die toneel ook van skokkende onkunde wat aborsie, tuisaborsie en die vroulike liggaam betref. Eerstens neem die aktrise ’n baie ongemaklike posisie in tydens die tuisaborsie – sy sit met een boud op die rand van die tafel. Ek kan nie dink dat dit die posisie is wat ’n mens instinktief sal inneem as jy jou baarmoeder met ’n breinaald wil bereik nie. Tweedens is ’n tuisaborsie iets wat baie versigtig uitgevoer moet word: dit is baie moeilik om ’n instrument soos ’n draadhanger of breinaald deur die serviks te begelei en ’n fetus raak te steek sonder om die wande van die baarmoeder ook raak te steek, soos dr. Jen Gunter, verloskundige en ginekoloog, en die Museum van Voorbehoeding en Aborsie in Wenen verduidelik. Verder kan die slagare rondom die baarmoeder raakgesteek word, wat tot massiewe, fatale bloedverlies sal lei. Daar is ook ’n risiko dat die dikderm geperforeer kan word wat fataal sal wees sonder toepaslike mediese hulp. Ek het dit dus baie vreemd gevind dat Nina, wanneer sy haar tuisaborsie uitvoer, die breinaald eers versigtig insteek en pyn registreer, maar dan verwoed begin om herhaaldelik haar ingewande met die breinaald te steek – asof sy ’n vis wat in ’n vat swem met ’n dolk probeer raaksteek. Hierdie bisarre aksie sou slegs geloofwaardig kon wees indien die baarmoeder ’n sfeer van staal was en die ongebore baba soos ’n goudvis daarbinne rondswem. Hierdie ongeloofwaardigheid word vererger deurdat Nina nie inmekaarsak nie, maar voortgaan om haar gedig (wat bedenklik baie na Stef se gedigte klink) aan die dooie fetus voor te dra. Sy bly die hele toneel deur staande en ten spyte van die bloedverlies, hou sy kop, argumenteer met Stef en voer dan ook haar plan om hom dood te skiet deur.

Derdens registreer Nina nie enige pyn en ongemak in die voorafgaande tonele wat, binne die fiktiewe konteks van die stuk, agt en veertig uur na die tuisaborsie en moord plaasvind nie. Weereens word die idee bevestig dat so ’n tuisaborsie amper geen fisieke impak het op die ma nie, maar bloot die fetus verwond.  Laastens is dit nie duidelik waarom Nina ’n tuisaborsie doen as sy vier maande swanger is nie. In Suid-Afrika is aborsie wettig tot op ’n draagtyd van twintig weke. Sy kon bloot ’n afspraak gemaak het by haar naaste Marie Stopes-kliniek.

In sy resensie van “Stil” in Beeld, skryf Rudi Sadler dat die skokkende gebeure in die drama gebruik word ter wille van die motivering van spanning en moord “en nie soseer om sosiale kommentaar daaroor te lewer nie,” hoewel dit ’n debat ontlok “deur die gehoor as ‘jurie’ te laat kant kies.” Ek wonder egter of dit moontlik is om iets so kontroversieel soos tuisaborsie uit te beeld sonder om sosiale kommentaar daaroor te lewer. Daar bestaan tog nie iets soos ’n neutrale teks nie. ’n Drama oor ’n kontroversiële onderwerp kan in een van twee rigtings beweeg: dit kan die status quo bevestig, of dit kan dit bevraagteken. In hierdie opsig bevestig “Stil” negatiewe vroulike stereotipes. Hoewel mens sou kon argumenteer dat Stef vir Nina tot haar aksies dryf deur afsydig te wees en te dreig om haar te verlaat wanneer sy swanger word, sou ’n redelike mens nie maklik soos sy reageer nie. Sy word as manipulerend en waansinnig uitgebeeld wanneer sy swanger raak sonder Stef se medewete en hom dan opgewonde van die nuus vertel, die fetus straf vir Stef se verwerping deur te drink en later die tuisaborsie te doen, lank beplan om hom te vermoor, hom as verkragter en vroueslaner uitbeeld en hom dan koelbloedig vermoor. So asof tuisaborsie iets is wat waansinnige vroue doen om mans te manipuleer.

Dit is nie dat ek argumenteer dat vroue noodwendig positief uitgebeeld moet word nie. Die probleem kom in by stereotipering, hetsy positief of negatief. Daar is ook verskeie negatiewe stereotipes van mans wat maklik as feit aangehaal word binne populêre kultuur (asof die patriargie afgetakel kan word deur mans sleg te sê) en dit is net so problematies. Een stereotipe kan egter nie ’n ander een ongedaan maak nie. In plaas daarvan om te suggereer dat mans nie noodwendig bose verkragters is en vroue onskuldige slagoffers nie (wat ’n baie geldige punt sou wees), val ’n produksie soos hierdie terug op die negatiewe stereotipering van vroue – wat in die eerste plek gelei het tot die behoefte aan die negatiewe stereotipering van mans.

Die gebrek aan navorsing lei dan ook tot verdere foute. Die beroepe van die onderskeie karakters word, onder andere, nie op ’n geloofwaardige manier uitgebeeld nie. Wanneer Stef homself aan Nina voorstel, sê hy dat hy ’n skrywer is. Dit blyk egter dat hy eerder ’n joernalis is as hy vertel dat hy vir die koerant skryf en al vier voorbladstories gehad het. Natuurlik bestaan daar baie skrywers wat ook joernaliste is om die pot aan die kook te hou. In “Stil” word die twee beroepe egter verwar: wanneer Stef ’n storie oor kindermoord vir die koerant moet skryf, vertel hy vir Nina hoe hy beplan om die inleiding te skryf. In hierdie inleiding gebruik Stef beeldspraak en ander narratiewe tegnieke eerder as die sober styl en gebruiklike vyf W’s en een H (wie?, wat?, waar?, wanneer?, waarom?, hoe?) van joernalistiek – so asof Stef ’n kortverhaal eerder as ’n koerantberig skryf. Hoewel die speurder haarself voorstel as “Inspekteur” en duidelik besig is met ’n polisie-ondervraging, sê sy vir Nina dat sy “nog nooit ’n saak verloor” het nie, asof sy ’n advokaat is.

Middagvertonings is berug daarvoor dat hulle afsteek teen aandvertonings, veral ten opsigte van die akteurs se energie. Ek wil dus nie té krities wees op die spelers nie, maar al drie se toneelspel het te kort geskiet by tye. Erasmus (as Stef) het bykans geen skok geregistreer wanneer sy karakter hoor dat Nina swanger is, of wanneer hy vir Nina in ’n plas bloed in die huis aantref nie. Hoewel Snyman (as Nina) ’n baie talentvolle sangeres is, het sy verbasend min stembeheer gehad wanneer sy toneel gespeel het. Gernandt (as die speurder) se spel het nie genoeg variasie getoon nie.

Ek is baie krities in hierdie bespreking, maar dit is juis omdat dit vir my onaanvaarbaar is dat ’n stuk wat sóveel potensiaal toon ondermyn word deur iets so slordig soos ’n gebrek aan navorsing. Die tipe navorsing wat ’n mens moet doen as jy ’n teks skryf is nie onderhewig aan ’n talent waarmee ’n dramaturg gebore hoef te word nie; dit is nie soos kreatiewe inspirasie wat onvoorspelbaar is nie; navorsing is werk. As dit ontbreek in ’n teks is dit iets wat kan, en móét, reggestel word. Die gehoor verdien niks minder nie.


Fifty Shades. 2016. “Fifty Shades Darker – Official Trailer (HD).” YouTube, 13 September. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6BVyk7hty8 (Geraadpleeg: 3 Maart 2017).

Gunter, Jen. 2013. “Anatomy of a coat hanger abortion.” Dr. Jen Gunter, 13 Julie. https://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/anatomy-of-a-coat-hanger-abortion/ (Geraadpleeg: 4 Maart 2017).

Jannes Erasmus. 2016. “STIL Trailer – Jannes Erasmus Produksie.” YouTube, 6 Maart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44p-FIIobvs (Geraadpleeg: 3 Maart 2017).

Keuris, Marisa. 1996. Die Dramateks: ’n Handleiding. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik.

Marie Stopes South Africa. 2017. “Safe Abortion.” http://www.mariestopes.org.za/safe-abortion/ (Geraadpleeg: 4 Maart 2017).

MUVS. 2017. “The Consequences of Illegal Abortions with Knitting Needles (Left Inside)” Museum of Contraception and Abortion. http://en.muvs.org/abbruch/abb-koerpermodelle/folgen-der-illegalen-abtreibung-mit-stricknadel-steckt-noch-id1140/ (Geraadpleeg: 4 Maart 2017).

Sadler, Rudi. 2017. “Misdaadriller betrek gehoor.” Beeld, 2 Maart.

Universal Pictures UK. 2014. “Fifty Shades of Grey – Official Trailer (Universal Pictures) HD.” YouTube, 24 Julie. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfZWFDs0LxA (Geraadpleeg: 3 Maart 2017).

“West Side Story.”

By: Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Laurents, and Stephen Sondheim
Featuring: Jonathan Roxmouth, Filipa van Eck, Christopher Japhta, Bianca le Grange, Stephen Jubber, Daniel Buys, Sven-Eric Müller, Cameron Botha, Clive Gilson, LJ Neilson, Elzanne Crause, Kristin Wilson, Tamryn van Houten, Caitlin Clerk, Adrian Galley, Natasha Hess, Ipeleng Merafe, Sibusiso Mxosana, Gemma Trehearn, Nurit Graff
Directed by: Matthew Wild
Musical direction: Charl-Johan Lingenfelder
Choreography: Louisa Talbot
Produced by: Eric Abraham and the Fugard Theatre
18 February 2017, 15:00
The Mandela, Joburg Theatre


And so I found myself at another “pleasure machine,” as Dan Rebellato (2011) refers to musicals. But, as was the case with “Sweeney Todd,” I was very much impressed with “West Side Story.” The text is an apt and intelligent adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, demonstrating once more just how open to reinterpretation the Bard’s texts are. In this adaptation, the conflict between Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets is transposed to the conflict between American and Puerto Rican gangs in 1950s New York. Tony (Jonathan Roxmouth), a member of the American gang, the Jets, falls in love with Maria (Filipa van Eck), the sister of Bernardo (Christopher Japhta), a member of the PRs, a Puerto Rican gang. Although the text is dated with regard to transgender issues (one of the songs insinuates that transgenderism is a form of insanity), it is still very relevant with regard to the relationship between masculinity and violence.

It always fascinates me when masculinity is portrayed through a medium such as musical theatre. This is, of course, a venture that can fail miserably if the actors are not convincingly masculine. I found Deon Opperman’s “Tree Aan!” (2011), which was supposed to depict the hyper masculine milieu of the border war, to be lacking in testosterone. In “West Side Story,” however, testosterone was splashing into the auditorium. The dance sequences, which represented fight scenes, were executed with energy and precision, resulting in a beautiful fusion of fictional chaos and actual discipline. The actors’ physique contributed effectively to establish that specific brand of American masculinity associated with Marlon Brando and James Dean. The marginalisation, objectification, and vulnerability of women within this masculine milieu was depicted in an effective, and rather disturbing, scene where Anita (Bianca le Grange), who is Bernardo’s girlfriend and Maria’s best friend, is assaulted when she attempts to deliver a message to Tony. Le Grange’s acting was superb in this scene as she portrayed the devastating frustration of a strong, independent woman whose agency is thwarted as she (literally) gets hit below the belt whenever she transgresses into the masculine sphere.

The grey, minimalist set was the perfect backdrop for these displays of masculinity. Different spaces are represented through different stage levels and by adding certain striking details to the grey space. Most of the action takes place in alleys and unknown urban spaces. The fire escapes of Maria’s home and Tony’s place of work move in from the wings, while Doc’s drug store appears from the stage floor. Because the latter is in a basement, the structure can start moving back into the stage floor while the characters are climbing the stairs to the surface of the street and the scene can thus continue uninterrupted by a décor shift. There is also a space upstage which can be concealed or, alternatively, reveal symbolic formations and performances, such as the song that is sung when Maria forgives Tony for killing her brother in a gang fight. The set and choreography therefore created a production that was visually impressive.

The main performers were all cast very well. Christopher Japhtha’s Bernardo was convincing as the protective older brother who is also the adversary to the hero. Jonathan Roxmouth’s Tony contrasted sharply with the other men: he is taller, his movements are not as animated, and his voice is deeper. Even from the back of the auditorium, the audience’s gaze rests comfortably on him from the first moment he enters the stage. Similarly, the other women loo,ked gaudy in their flashy outfits next to Maria, in her simple white dress, at the dance where she and Tony first meet. The hardest part of staging any adaptation of this basic plot is, surely, to convince the audience that the short-lived romance between the main characters is overwhelming enough to motivate the rest of the plot. In this production, the chemistry between Tony and Maria was palpable from the start: whenever they were together, it was as if the rest of the world disappeared. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the chemistry between Tony and Riff (Stephen Jubber). Although the text indicates, at various points, that these two characters share a special bond and are like brothers to each other, this was not evident from their body language. As a result, Tony’s avenging of Riff’s murder, by killing Bernardo, seems unmotivated.

Overall, “Westside Story” is a highly enjoyable production with enough meat on its bones to escape the pejorative adjectives usually attached to musicals.


Rebellato, Dan. 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 (Accessed: 9 January 2017).

AARDKLOP 2016: “Beurtkrag.”

Deur: Stiaan Smith
Met: Ivan Botha, Donnalee Roberts
Regie: Jozua Malherbe
Vervaardiger: 17 Filmstreet Media en Artist Warehouse CC
8 Oktober 2016, 20:00
kykNET Gimmies


Jasper (Ivan Botha) en Fransie (Donnalee Roberts) is smoorverlief en dolgelukkig en trek saam in. Die krag gaan af. Hulle begin vry, maar die atmosfeer word bederf deur ’n ou argument: destyds, nog voor hulle amptelik ’n paartjie was, het Jasper vir Fransie verneuk en sy sukkel steeds om hom heeltemal te vergewe. Die argument gaan sover dat hulle besluit om op te breek. Sy reël om by ’n vriendin te gaan oorslaap en hy beplan om haar uit die woonstel uit te koop. Hy maak egter ’n dramatiese liefdesverklaring en sy besluit om te bly. Die narratief word aangehelp met simboliese rekwisiete: ’n vieslike speelgoedswaard en Hitchcock, ’n Franse dashond uit porselein. Sy weier aanvanklik om die swaard, wat vir hom sentimentele waarde het, in die woonstel op te sit en hy breek per ongeluk die porseleinhond, wat weer vir haar sentimentele waarde het. Die stuk eindig waar hy vir Hitchcock met kleefband aanmekaarplak en sy instem om die swaard in hul woonvertrek uit te stal.

Hierdie romantiese komedie het dus raakpunte met die akteursduo se flieks, Pad na jou Hart (2014) en Vir Altyd (2016). Só trek die produksie nie net aanhangers van hierdie films nie, maar ook die sepie, 7de Laan, waarin Botha en Roberts albei gespeel het. Op ’n manier heel soortgelyk aan mense wat aanhangers van ’n bepaalde film is – sê nou maar Disney se The Lion King (1994) – en dan die musiekblyspelweergawe gaan kyk om deel van die ervaring te wees in lewende lywe, wil hierdie aanhangers hul gunstelingakteurs, en die tipe narratief wat hulle met die akteurs assosieer, in lewende lywe op die verhoog sien afspeel.

Ook die titel, “Beurtkrag,” is aanloklik vir Afrikaanse gehore. Dit verwys na ’n aktuele kwessie wat almal in Suid-Afrika raak en waaroor mense nie slegs kollektief verontrief en kwaad is nie, maar ook – soos Santam se “One-of-a-kind” advertensie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViorVDgiiOg) beweer – op ’n manier deel geword het van ons Suid-Afrikaanse identiteit. Mense voel dus ook asof die produksie dinge gaan aanspreek wat relevant is tot hulle lewens.

Hierdie strategieë is slim en dit het gewerk: die saal was vol en dit het gelyk asof die gehoor die stuk geniet.

Verder was die dekor ook baie slim: aangesien die karakters pas in ’n nuwe woonstel ingetrek het, is die verhoog gevul met kartondose. Dit is ’n sinvolle en goedkoop manier om ’n verhoog vol te maak en te transformeer, veral ’n skoolsaal se groot, leë, atmosfeerlose verhoog. Hulle het ook ’n kamera op die verhoog gehad waarmee die karakters hul eerste dag in hul nuwe woonstel dokumenteer en hierdie beeldmateriaal is agter op ’n muur van kartondose geprojekteer. Dit beklemtoon nie slegs die konflik wat sosiale media en die dokumentasie van hul lewens in hul verhouding veroorsaak nie, maar stel die regisseur ook in staat om op sleuteloomblikke ’n vergrote beeld van die karakters se gesigte aan die gehoor te wys.

Ongelukkig kom ’n produksie soos hierdie, wat op die aanhangers van sepies en romantiese komedies staatmaak, dikwels teen ’n prys en “Beurtkrag” is nie ’n uitsondering nie. Die verhaallyn is geyk en voorspelbaar. Dit steun swaar op genderstereotipes: sy is ’n onbuigbare beheervraat wat haar smaak op hom afdwing en hy is kinderagtig. Die rekwisiet wat vir hóm saakmaak (die speelgoedswaard) dra assosiasies van sy lewe as vrygesel en sy mansvriende, terwyl die rekwisiet wat vir háár saakmaak (Hitchcock) hulle verhouding simboliseer. Vroue mag dalk huishoudelike tiranne wees, maar hulle stel hul verhouding en ander mense altyd eerste, terwyl mans inskiklik en gemaklik, maar ook selfsugtig is en hul vriende eerder as hul lewensmaat prioritiseer. Moet ook nie vergeet dat mans noodwendig vroue verneuk, en vroue mans noodwendig probeer verander nie. En natuurlik vat dit slegs ’n dramatiese liefdesverklaring van die man om enige probleme in ’n verhouding onmiddelik op te los. Ek het begin wonder hoeveel mense werklik in sulke verhoudings is waar genderstereotipes al hulle gedrag en argumente dikteer?! En maak dit hulle nie waansinnig nie?!

Die produksie is dus geyk en essensialisties, maar die spel is oortuigend en die stel werk. Die stuk bereik sy doel. Dit is dalk net te sentimenteel vir my koue, siniese hart van klip.

AARDKLOP 2016: “Amper, Vrystaat.”

Deur: Antoinette Louw, Milan Murray, Cintaine Schutte, Nico Scheepers
Met: Antoinette Louw, Milan Murray, Cintaine Schutte
Regie: Nico Scheepers
Vervaardiger: Antoinette Louw
8 Oktober 2016, 16:30
kykNET Gimmies


Een van die nadele van kunstefeeste, en veral die toneelbedryf in Suid-Afrika waar meeste teaterbywoning by kunstefeeste gebeur, is dat mens soms forseer word om drie toneelstukke op een dag te sien. Ek probeer dit gewoonlik beperk tot twee, maar dit is nie altyd moontlik nie en op die ou end moet ek kies om óf drie stukke op een dag te sien, óf een van die stukke glad nie te sien nie. Teen vieruur was ek nog glad nie gereed om weer teater toe te gaan na die oggend se vertoning van “Pa” nie. En dan moet ek die volgende toneelstuk boonop in Potchefstroom Gimnasium se saal gaan kyk: behalwe dat die plek vir my slegte hoërskoolherinneringe oproep, is dit ook nie geskik vir toneel nie.

Wanneer ek so voos by ’n teater instap kry ek die akteurs altyd vreeslik jammer. In 2010 moes ek van ’n vertoning van “Die Kortstondige Raklewe van Anastasia W” in die Totiussaal hardloop tot by “Spyt” by Laerskool Mooirivier. Ek was baie angstig dat ek laat sou wees vir die tweede vertoning en na die kragtige eerste vertoning het ek glad nie kans gesien om onmiddelik iets anders te kyk nie. Eers toe dit begin het ek besef dat Nicole Holm in albei produksies spéél. In hierdie geval het Milan Murray in beide “Pa” en “Amper, Vrystaat” gespeel. Hoewel daar heelwat tyd was tussen die twee produksies, verwonder ek my steeds aan haar energie.

My moed het verder in my skoene gesak toe ek sien dat die stuk meestal steun op direkte aanspreek van die gehoor. Dit is iets wat ek te veel op Afrikaanse verhoë sien. Wat drama by uitstek onderskei van poësie en prosa is dat dit ’n verhaal of gebeure aan die gehoor wys eerder as om dit aan hulle te vertel. ’n Meer gesofistikeerde teks laat die gehoor toe om hul eie afleidings oor die karakters te maak, eerder as dat karakters aan die gehoor vertel presies hoe hulle voel en waarom. Vir my voel dit of die monoloë wat karakters aan die gehoor rig eerder karaktersketse is wat die dramaturg skryf in voorbereiding tot die finale weergawe van die teks.

In “Amper, Vrystaat” was die direkte aanspreek van die gehoor egter geslaagd en die stuk het gesorg vir ’n baie aangename kykervaring. Drie uiteenlopende susters vertel om die beurt van hul kinderjare op die klein Vrystaatse dorpie, Amper, die disfunksionele gesin waaruit hulle kom en hoe hulle uitmekaar gedryf het. Bea (Antoinette Louw) het as tiener weggeloop van die huis af en het sedertdien ’n verhouding met ’n getroude man wat haar finansieel ondersteun, maar nooit sy vrou vir haar sal los nie. Sy probeer egter haar uiterste bes om elegant en kosmopolities voor te kom en haar 1950s Hollywood-geïnspireerde klerekas verklap nie dat sy in ’n vervalle woonstel in Wonderboom woon nie. Liz (Milan Murray) is die “no nonsense” ma van ’n groot kroos (by verskillende mans). Sy woon in ’n estate in Pretoria-Oos maar verdiep haar in die geheim in wetenskapsfiksie en fantasie. Annatjie (Cintaine Schutte) is ’n lesbiese hipster wat onlangs Kaap toe getrek het. Die stuk kom tot ’n klimaks wanneer die drie susters en hul ma saam Kersfees vier en Annatjie uit die kas uitkom.

Die drie aktrises het elkeen baie goed daarin geslaag om ’n geloofwaardige karakter te skep. Hulle het stereotipes net genoeg egtheid gegee sodat dit vir die gehoor voel of hulle elkeen van die karakters in die werklike lewe al raakgeloop het. Tragiese gebeure is uitgebeeld met net genoeg komiese verligting om die gehoor se simpatie te wen sonder om stroperig te raak – soos wanneer Bea met ’n luiperdpelsjas en donkerbril by hul ma se begrafnis opdaag.

Die treffendste deel van die stuk is die Kersete by Liz se huis. Die sluimerende konflik en onversoenbaarheid tussen die karakters is onmiddelik tasbaar. Die gehoor voel saam met die karakters ongemaklik en senuweeagtig. Die spanning bou geleidelik en loop dan uit op ’n lelike argument. Die ensemblespel was puik en dié toneel herinner aan Tracy Letts se Pulitzer Pryswenner, August: Osage County (2008). Juis daarom wens ek dat die gehoor meer van hierdie ensemblespel kon sien in plaas daarvan dat die gebeure verder deur die karakters aan die gehoor vertel word.

Hoewel die dekor esteties treffend was, was dit glad nie funksioneel nie en ek was verbaas om te lees dat dit ’n Fiësta-toekenning gewen het. Drie gloeilampe hang van die treklatte af tot agter elke aktrise wat elkeen bo-op ’n hopie spoelklippe staan. Van sekere hoeke af skyn die gloeilampe se lig reg in die gehoor se oë in, wat steurend is. Omdat Gimmies se verhoog hoër is as die siglyn van die gehoor, kon mens nie die spoelklippe sien nie, maar dit het geraas elke keer as ’n aktrise opstaan en hulle het soms gesukkel om hul staan te kry. Verder het dit wit merke agterop Antoinette Louw se swart rok gelaat. Die klippe stel sekerlik voor hoe elke karakter op haar eie simboliese eiland uitgespoel het, maar ek het gevoel dat die metafoor nie verder onderstreep hoef te word nie. Myns insiens sou drie stoeltjies met kolligte beter gewerk het.

Ten spyte hiervan is “Amper, Vrystaat” ’n aangename kykervaring met puik spel en ’n teks wat baie potensiaal toon.

AARDKLOP 2016: “Pa.”

Deur: Florian Zeller
Met: Chris van Niekerk, Milan Murray, Stian Bam, Roeline Daneel, Ira Blanckenberg, Gustav Gerdener
Regie: Hennie van Greunen
Ontwerp: Nico Scheepers, Theo Kleynhans
Musiek: Pedro Kruger
Vertaling: Elouise du Toit, Naomi Morgan
Vervaardiger: Pedro Kruger vir Wordsmith’s Theatre Factory
8 Oktober 2016, 10:00
Weet en Sweet

Wanneer ’n toneelstuk my emosioneel intrek, is dit vir my baie moeilik om dit objektief te beoordeel. Hoewel ek uiteraard myself toelaat om meegevoer te word deur ’n toneelstuk, maak ek deurgaans notas in my gedagtes en distansieer myself van tyd tot tyd emosioneel om te bepaal of die stuk slaag in dit wat hy aanpak. In ’n toneelstuk soos “Pa” was ek op ’n stadium só emosioneel geraak dat ek opgehou het om te probeer om krities te kyk en later net gesit en huil het.

En tog is dit op sigself sekerlik ’n goeie teken. As ’n toneelstuk die gehoor diep raak, het die akteurs en produksiespan iets reg gedoen. Alzheimer se siekte, demensie en veroudering is onderwerpe wat by meeste gehoorlede ’n emosionele snaar sal raak. Wanneer dit nie reg aangepak word nie, kan die stuk ontaard in ’n didaktiese bewusmakingsveldtog. “Pa” slaag egter daarin om die gehoor intens bewus te maak van die ervaring van iemand wat aan demensie ly sonder om ooit prekerig of sentimenteel te raak.

Die verhoogruimte en rolbesetting word op ’n baie funksionele manier gebruik om die gehoor in te trek in André (Chris van Niekerk), ’n 65-jarige wat aan Alzheimer se siekte ly, se ervaring. Met elke dekorwisseling verander die stel: boekrakke word vervang deur panele en sommige meubelstukke verdwyn of word vervang met ander. André se dogter, Anna (Milan Murray/Ira Blanckenberg), haar man (Gustav Gerdener/Stian Bam) en die verpleegster (Roeline Daneel/Ira Blanckenberg) tree op asof niks skort nie maar André en die gehoor word al meer verward. Die rolle word verdubbel wat maak dat Anna eweskielik heeltemal vreemd lyk wanneer sy van die dorp af kom, en haar man lyk ook van tyd tot tyd na ’n vreemdeling.

Aanvanklik kan die gehoor nog sin maak van die situasie en onderskei tussen dít wat werklik gebeur (binne die fiktiewe konteks, natuurlik) en dít wat André hallusineer of verwar met vorige gebeure. Later raak dit al hoe moeiliker.

Die spel was deurgaans uitstekend en myns insiens sou Chris van Niekerk ’n voor die hand liggende keuse gewees het vir die toekenning vir beste akteur. Daar is een bepaalde toneel wat vir my uitstaan. Anna se man, Pierre, word meestal deur Stian Bam vertolk. Bam troon fisiek bo die ander karakters uit wat hom intimiderend maak. By tye word Pierre deur Gustav Gerdener, wat heelwat korter is, vertolk. Die karakter behou egter die intimiderende liggaamlikheid wat Bam reeds daaraan gegee het. In hierdie bepaalde toneel is die spanning wat André se toestand vir die mense rondom hom veroorsaak reeds duidelik. Gerdener, as Pierre, konfronteer vir André en vra hom uit frustrasie hoe lank hy nog hulle lewens gaan “opfok.” Pierre klap vir André dan liggies deur die gesig, maar hy doen dit herhaaldelik. André se vernedering en weerloosheid was tasbaar. Ek het ook gewonder of Pierre nie dan juis Bam se fisieke gestalte in André se verbeelding aanneem as gevolg van hierdie vernedering nie. ’n Mens is teen hierdie tyd glad nie meer seker of Pierre vir André werklik so verneder en of dit bloot ’n hallusinasie is nie. Watookal die geval, André is absoluut uitgelewer en sy situasie is tragies.

Vanweë verskeie misverstande is daar ook komiese verligting in die teks. Die gevolg is ’n toneelstuk wat baie ernstige en swaar temas aanpak sonder om stroperig, melodramaties of voorskriftelik te raak. Dit is geen geringe prestasie nie.