Reza leaves magic behind
Playwright Reza de Wet was publicity shy. And because she was so comfortable in life with the paranormal, I suspect she is still shy now that she has to listen to eulogies. Words thus must be chosen wisely.
De Wet died last Friday at the age of 59 in her home in Grahamstown. She was diagnosed with leukaemia in November last year.
She was the most honoured Afrikaans playwright ever, amongst others, winner of two Hertzog prizes. She was named the female Fugard, an Afrikaans Chekhov, even accused as someone who bedevilled the Afrikaans psyche following her acclaimed debut with Diepe Grond.
For me as a young playwright, she was the ultimate, not only in terms of the standard of her work, but also in the way she handled her artistry.
We met at the Volksblad Festival in 2002. She had come to watch Spanner, a piece I wrote featuring amongst others her close friend Marthinus Basson as part of the cast. During the play, some members of the audience walked out because of the language. Reza was excited, because of this walkout, and because of the play. That made my whole year.
After that we worked together on three projects – the first time was with Verleiding, a solo piece with Antoinette Kellermann.
In 2005, it was an honour to witness the collaboration between her and Basson. She often said he understood her work better than she did herself.
I asked her once about the most important quality a young playwright should have. Her response was simple and clear: understand the space on stage. Before she started writing, she said, she thought for weeks about the space on stage. About the magical. And don’t ever write if you don’t have an idea, she added archly.
Reza wrote little, altogether 12 Afrikaans texts of which six were translated into English. She also wrote five English pieces for the stage. Her work is recognised and performed internationally. Besides her writing, she was a drama lecturer at Rhodes University, directed and sometimes acted.
A shy flower (skugter skaam-blom), Basson once called her.
Reza had an old world charm, a vulnerability, and an untouchable magical quality. She was cheerful and laughed often, usually at herself.
She is survived by her husband Lindsey, daughter Nina van Schoor and two grandchildren.