James Cairns and Taryn Bennett in The Old Man and The Sea. Picture: Supplied
James Cairns and Taryn Bennett in The Old Man and The Sea. Picture: Supplied
The Old Man and The Sea. Pictures: Supplied
The Old Man and The Sea. Pictures: Supplied
Past experiences of reading and watching stories that come from Cuba have led me to believe that the South American nation is culturally rich and, as a result, exceptionally captivating. The story of The Old Man and the Sea, although originally written by American author Ernest Hemingway, is no different.

The theatre adaptation of the 1952 Pulitzer Prize-winning novella is now on at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square in Sandton. The play is bound to leave you entertained, but also touched by the simple sincerity on which the story is built.

If, like me, you haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with the literature, the play then does the work of telling you the story in a simple yet sophisticated way.

The tale is woven around an old, yet respected Cuban fisherman, Santiago, who hasn’t brought in a catch in 84 days. 

Whether through luck or experience, the old man - who is already the talk of the village - becomes the subject of both worry and fascination when he ends up at the far end of the Gulf of Mexico and hooks a giant marlin.

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The cast, made up of James Cairns, Tarryn Bennett and Jaques De Silva, brings to life about six characters using face masks, slight wardrobe changes and Cuban accents.

The play is quite physical: The cast make an effort, using their bodies, to bring a certain authenticity to the characters. The set, which is built on what seems to be a revolving floor, also does a good job of completing the mental picture that is created in each scene.

The Old Man and The Sea. Pictures: Supplied

I was particularly touched by the scenes of the old man all alone at sea struggling to pull in the giant marlin. 

That scene is performed against the backdrop of a set that resembles the bow of a wooden fishing boat. Here, the old man pulls till his hands are raw and bargains with God to get him out of this situation.

At that point some of the play’s themes come through: the triumph of the human spirit and determination. 

Ideas around the sense of community are also explored - the entire village seems shaken at the disappearance of the old man at sea. With each passing moment, the villagers fluctuate between hope that his experience as a fisherman will carry him through, and despondent that he won’t come back alive.

The music also adds to the Cuban atmosphere.

While the production is not simple to follow and requires a fair amount of concentration, it is enjoyable to watch. It takes you through the highs and lows of the villagers’ and the old man’s experiences.

* The Old Man and The Sea runs until October 7 at the Auto and General Theatre on the Square.

@sego_says