DELIRIUM (by Ariel Dorfman)

DIRECTOR: Greg Homann

CAST: David Dennis, Fiona Ramsay, Fezile Mpela

VENUE: Barney Simon at Joburg’s Market Theatre

Until: September 23

RATING: 3 stars (out of 5)

Diane de Beer

If you’re familiar with Emir Kusturica’s movies, Time of the Gypsies especially, that’s a bit what this deliciously dilly yet pulsatingly painful work feels like. It’s a roller-coaster ride in a war zone with two mad hatters and their new jailer taking you for a brief tour of a world at war with itself and its people.

While an ageing couple waits for their lost son while documenting and burying the dead on the border of two warring countries, the world around them suddenly explodes.

When peace is declared, the exasperated voice of someone who has been through this once too often, reminds us that this is nothing new. It’s happened before and it didn’t last.

Like Kusturica’s movies, this Dorfman play comes to life because of the direction, the look and the people who tell the story. It’s a delight to experience such determined playfulness to tell a story of such magnitude and so much sadness as it reflects on the state of the world.

Dennis and Ramsay together on stage are a blast. They play off and with one another with such ease and tell their stories so gloriously, you are immediately drawn into their extra-ordinary world. Then harshly, they’re brought to reality with a vicious thump with the arrival of Mpela’s bureaucratic border guard who has to introduce and maintain all the harsh rules of living in a house that’s divided into two countries. If you want to sleep or eat, you might have to produce visas and passports. It’s bad enough obliging when you’re rewarded with a holiday at the other end. It’s a nightmare if you have to do it routinely.

But that’s the thing about people trapped in war or forcing others without choice. Who of us could imagine the state of living in Syria or Gaza at present?

In a state of war, the experience most heightened is probably that of sound. Most of the others must be dulled simply to survive. But with Delirium, the experience is much better than the script. Tannie Evita, when living in Bapetikosweti, played with the idea of living in two countries to point at the horror of people living in made-up countries.

Yes, Delirium does show the absurdity delightfully, but with more push, it could have us delving deeper.