Plays of pertinent resonance must travel

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to brendan daniels rolbalspeler . Brendon Daniels in Die Rolbalspeler.

The Suidooster Festival in Cape Town that concluded this weekend is the first of many local arts festivals. Diane de Beer selects four productions she hopes will travel – to other festivals and cities across the country.

 

Hans Meintjies might be the one with debilitating retinitis pigmentosa (failing eyesight), but his mother is the one who refuses to see. Die Rolbalspeler (bowls player) is adapted by the prolific Saartjie Botha (who enriches theatre with her language skills) from a book by Zain Eckleton.

Bathed in typical kitchen-sink dramatics, it’s a story that cuts to the bone and fleshes out the lives of four drifting souls. Two of them face their problems, while the others are so beaten down by what they see as the inevitability of their lives, they refuse to dream. It’s their lot and in the process they enable others – especially those who avoid asking questions – down this slippery slope.

It’s a story with obvious conclusions, perhaps unfolding too neatly in places, but with a cast in such perfect sync, they draw you into their lives. From June van Merch’s sassy yet stroppy mother, Nicole Holm’s broken but battling social worker, DJ Mouton’s steadily disintegrating drifter and especially Brendon Daniels’ brittle and delicate portrayal of Hans, the loyal son who is searching for a life that will bring more light into their lives.

It’s the kind of theatre Janice Honeyman does with generous humanity.

 

l It seems local theatre makers are airing the Fugard canon which is a glorious thing as they turn to his lesser performed works, giving audiences a chance to renew their acquaintance or to see it for the first time.

Recently James Ngcobo revived Nongogo and now Botha (again masterfully) translated Playland into Afrikaans (staged with English surtitles) to great effect.

With Albert Maritz as director and Mbulelo Grootboom and Albert Pretorius as protagonists, it’s the direction, the text and the performances that soar.

Performed first a year earlier than the start of our democracy with the country on the cusp of change, it is the emotional disintegration and depravity that strikes one most forcibly. How when power imbalances exist, people are falsely empowered and others resigned to whatever comes their way.

It should be widely seen and what would make it even more rewarding is a judicious trim of about 15 minutes and a set that’s less messy.

 

l Platform 9, Tweede Deel (second part), written and directed by Christo Davids starring Maurice Paige (Isidingo) and Theodore Jantjies (7de Laan), has a reputation that precedes them and, if like me, you didn’t see the first season (a just-completed two-month run in Cape Town’s Baxter, but also performances in Gauteng and at festivals), it’s delightful to witness the versatility of this dynamic duo.

This time they’re on the train en route to Masterchef auditions and on the journey they encounter a multitude of characters – some recurring and others brand-new. They go for the jugular with comedy that’s politically incorrect, but unashamedly entertaining.

It is the two actors and their skills that make this work. They’re light on their toes and with their tongues and they swiftly switch to song which gets everybody rocking. It’s an audience pleaser and the bonus is their buxom buffoonery.

I’m told first time around was slicker, but this is early days. They’re still in the slip-and-slide stage and the comic rhythms aren’t perfectly pitched – yet. They’re going to get there quickly, so catch them in what is sure to become a serial habit. Television actors sometimes swindle with their “stardom”, but this is the real deal.

 

l Teens are a neglected theatre target so when something pops up, those who want to build audiences hold thumbs it will hit the mark.

Agtervolger (Follower) does so with a few bumps which have to be smoothed out, but it’s early days. As a production, it also has much to its credit. The play is the result of an annual national drama competition presented by Hoërskool Belville with kykNET as the main sponsor (the closing date for the 2014 competition for pupils with acting potential is today, so call 021 948 1801 or e-mail [email protected]).

A handful of winners are selected to participate in a play presented with professional actors (Theodore Jantjies and Kim Cloete) and a director (Vicky Davis) here as well as at Woordfees in Stellenbosch next month.

This gives these fledgling actors both experience and exposure.

Agtervolger is a thriller about four kids on a hike in isolated mountains, each one battling with his/her own baggage. The strength of the show is also its weakness – multimedia. It hits the sweet spot for a young audience if it works. It has the potential, with the storytelling moving between stage and screen, except the transitions are clumsy so that the tool targeting youngsters hinders rather than helps.

The live action also needs pace, but all of this can be manoeuvered. The budding actors do well and the audience is hooked, but they could do even better – and then it should travel.

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