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CHEAPER THAN ROSES
DIRECTOR: Zane Meas
CAST: Lizz Meiring
VENUE: Golden Arrow Theatre, Baxter
UNTIL: May 3
THIS ONE-WOMAN show rooted in the concept of reclassification, just one of the many evils visited upon us because of apartheid, is an odd fish.
On the one hand it gives us a character whom we never see on stage – a coloured woman who was reclassified white at the height of apartheid. So, yay for representation and talking about things your parents just won’t mention.
On the other hand, 15 years after it was first written, it does not give us any insight into said character, so what was that all about?
The staging faithfully recreates the Bredaarsdorp (that’s how the sign is spelt, just like you’d say it if you were from there) station, complete with windblown litter and a train track.
But the lighting doesn’t support the effort even though there is a gorgeous old-school street lamp presiding over the stage.
Lizz Meiring plays Bettie Fourie from Joburg, who used to be Bettie Fortuin from Bredasdorp. Set in 1996, the one-act play spools out on the train station where a flustered Bettie is waiting for the next train out of Dodge.
She addresses a cheery, smiling Nelson Mandela poster as she stomps up and down the platform, decrying her family’s stand-offish ways for rejecting her at her father’s funeral.
Bettie had come home after 27 years when she heard he was on his deathbed, only to be met with stony stares and cold shoulders.
As she dusts off the wooden bench with a hanky, she opens her suitcase and when she starts rummaging through the cardboard case you think you are about to get all the baggage. But, while you get to grips with the broad strokes of the events of her life, you never understand how this affected her sense of identity.
While the play evokes the moment in 1996 that this woman could possibly have been standing there, under that particular lamp, shakily angry and desperately sad at the same time, the character never takes you there.
If the on-again-off-again brei is meant to hint at the underlying original coloured persona rearing its head, Meiring is not consistent enough in how it gets used to really create that effect.
The script also never gives us the words for why she never thought the family would reject her after she rejected them, or how it makes her feel, other than stubbornly angry.
Ultimately she is always Lizz Meiring playing the character whose life has followed an odd track courtesy of the way she has hidden and changed her identity, but how this made her feel, other than hardegat (in her own words), we never understand.
While it is awesome to see a coloured person’s reality reflected on stage, I want more than this. I want you to scratch under the surface, not just give me the surface.