A journey of three generations

Published Jul 20, 2011


It’s about ordinary people, says Sandra Prinsloo about Janneman, which runs in Pretoria’s Atterbury Theatre from Thursday until Sunday.

This is the third time in short succession that she plays a grand-mother, following the still travelling Naaimasjien, as well as Vergenoeg, based on a novel Marieta van der Vyver novel.

But this grandmother, Karien, is different from anyone she has played previously. “She’s a rare woman who truly lost her heart when she was very young and stayed in love,” she says.

“Her story really starts after the play ends, because here it’s about a family in mourning,” explains Prinsloo. How will she cope on her own for the first time?

Also on stage is Karien’s daughter Lorraine, played by Franci Swanepoel, and her grand-daughter Anne, played by Hannah Borthwick.

“There’s a great balance between tragedy and comedy in the telling of these three stories,” says Swanepoel, who recently decided to step away from her character Toeks in Binnelanders, giving her more opportunities to return to stage.

They all agree that Janneman is a familiar story about ordinary people dealing with loss. The three characters are on stage at the same time, but instead of communicating with one another they step into the spotlight alone to tell their story while facing the audience. They refer to one another as they talk about their lives.

The two remaining characters are in shadow, but stay on stage as if participating in the dialogue in which all their lives are inter-twined.

“It’s as if we’re eavesdropping when not speaking,” says Prinsloo.

Written by an Irish playwright, it was discovered and translated into Afrikaans by producer/director of the Wordsmith’s Theatre Factory, Hennie van Greunen.

All three actors feel that he has managed to embrace the univer-sality of the play and make it part of our consciousness.

“They’re all very recognisable,” says Swanepoel of the women, and what appeals to the cast is that it is such a funny play even though many audience members leave crying.

Speaking about her character, Borthwick says Anne is a typical teenager who rebels against the world and especially her mother.

“She’s irrational, has distanced herself from her emotions and finds ways to harm herself.”

This being one of Borthwick’s first professional productions, she is thrilled to be learning from two such experienced actors. “I was terrified at first, but you learn through your challenges.”

Borthwick is the daughter of two actors, James Borthwick and Rika Sennett.

Lorraine, Karien’s daughter of Karien and Anne’s mother, is a neurotic creature. “I don’t think she has much confidence, she’s unsure and has been hurt often,” explains Swanepoel.

“She finds it difficult to show her child love and she’s envious about the love her daughter and mother share.” That’s a familiar scenario, and the cast agree that there are many who have obviously fallen in love with the story and the people they portray.

It is theatre that moves people, it’s huge fun and the characters are coloured sympathetically.

“They’re streetwise,” says Prinsloo of this trio of women from different generations.

“Karien, for example, has an unconventional spirit, she’s not judgemental, she’s fiercely loyal.”

It’s theatre that’s honest, raw and there’s nothing fussy about the storytelling or the production.

l Janneman at the Atterbury Theatre from Thursday to Sunday, then Kalfiefees in Onrus on August 7 and 8, and at Aardklop from October 4 to 9. Cape Town dates are still to be confirmed.

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