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Phoenix of memories rises from ashes

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TO BLUE2

How glorious is a new play by this extraordinary playwright in a year that he celebrates his 80th birthday? Obviously his age and by its very nature, growing old, dominates his writing. It’s difficult to ignore at this stage of his life.

The evocative title, one that could as easily suggest a painting as a play, implies an intimate story that has to be witnessed with care.

A blue iris in the Karoo, a flower so delicate and fragile, so out of place in the harsh landscape where Fugard has set this tale of three people; a husband and wife and the woman who grew up in the home where her mother worked and then took over those duties.

Rather than dealing in message, the playwright is intrigued with memories, how different people look back, what they hold close and how that affects individual lives. The way we engage and encounter will influence the way we remember our lives and also the lives of those around us.

Robert (Weir) and Rieta (Van Rooi) are living among the ashes of a burnt-out farmhouse trying to salvage anything they can from what seems to have been a devastating fire.

Not only did the blaze take the life work of Robert’s wife, her paintings, but also her life.

While sifting through the remains of the fire, Robert and Rieta are also uncluttering their minds. It’s difficult to fathom why they’re still there like two lost souls but that also unfolds as they start sharing their secrets.

These are people who lived up close and personal yet hardly scratched more that the surface of one another’s lives. It takes the unravelling of the fabric of their existence to open the personal floodgates.

Weir is a reincarnation of a slightly younger Fugard which is endearing as he speaks the playwright’s nuanced language, so strongly from the Karoo and its arid environment, so part of the character he portrays. It is one of the strongest elements of the play, Fugard’s local tongue and the way each word is flavoured by the soil.

More than either husband or wife, this is Rieta’s story and Van Rooi is mesmerising in the way she inhabits this distressed woman who gave much more than her time to the people of this house.

Being the servant, what she remembers and sees is very different to those who owned not only the house, but apparently also her hopes and dreams.

It’s a sad indictment of the way we engage those around us, how memories are formed and misformed to suit those who make and retain them and how much more than homes can come tumbling down as the fires of the past start burning out of control.


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