IT’S CLEAR that staging a production like this – which tells the story of Alison Botha, who was stabbed multiple times in her stomach and whose throat was slit by two men claiming to be Satanists – would throw up tremendous difficulties.
How much should be told, what should be left out, and how much should be graphically depicted of the events of that grisly night 20 years ago?
Playwright and director Maralin van Renen doesn’t spare us the horrible details, but presents the play in such a way that, although we are strongly moved, we are not devastated by the terrible events.
Of course, Alison herself now has a career as an inspirational speaker, but one can’t let the positivity and hype around that detract from the random, callous behaviour of the two perpetrators, who are now coming up for parole, and the many brutal attacks carried out every day.
So, how to make such a story entertaining and turn it into theatre one would want to go and see?
We are shown Alison (played by Suanne Braun, pictured) as she was before her attack – happy-go-lucky, enjoying wine with friends.
The stark set – just a back-lit tree and the moon – dims and we are drawn almost reluctantly into the night of the assault, being introduced to the two dark characters, Frans du Toit (Zak Hendrikz) and Theuns Kruger (David de Beer).
As Alison’s mind races and splits into different parts, three actors portray her inner voice, explaining her emotions, her conflict about what to do, and finally her resolution to survive so she can help catch her attackers and tell her story.
She is clear she feels no guilt or shame about what happened to her, and feels motivated to help educate society and change the perception people have of rape survivors.
The full-steam-ahead approach chosen by Alison once she had recovered from her physical wounds is sometimes worrying, as it may diminish the implications of the terrible crime, while her stand-up parts in the play border on the didactic. But Suanne Braun inhabits the role convincingly.
The events are fleshed out with different voices, giving us a 360º view. We see Du Toit and Kruger drinking in their lair, the playwright envisaging the kind of immature and provocative language they may have used to egg each other on. It is an insight into another world, a subculture that spawns “Satanists”, who in reality are confused, alienated young men.
Alison’s mother (Shaeleen Tobin) tells some anecdotes from her school days – she was popular, but not studious – and her friend, Kim, relates a few other memories.
We sit with Alison by the roadside after she has been rescued by the compassionate and competent Tiaan, and go into the hospital theatre with her, where we meet the excellent Dr Angelou.
These characters, played by Clayton Boyd, turn out to be two of the many miracle workers in Alison’s life. The play is also a tribute to them, and for this reason, among many, it should be seen – because there are many more good and even wonderful people in the world than cynical, violent bullies.
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