No home improver like an old home improver

diegang
ALTOGETHER now: Geriatic energy is in the focus of Joe Kleinhans’s Die Gang.

NEPOTISM, CORRUPTION AND other kinds of detected shenanigans in the management of a Pretoria  old aged home which has passed its prime comes under the delicious loupe of Joe Kleinhans’s vision in this lovely Afrikaans-language play with a tight structure and a strong sense of geriatric morality. It broadcasts in a few hours and is arguably one of the finest possible ways to pass an hour on a chilly winter’s evening.

Within minutes of the opening scene, we meet Jakob Swart (Louis Van Niekerk), a dapper and elderly widower with a good eye for the flaws in a building and a cell phone in his hand. He’s just moved into TuisBes, a residential place for the elderly which prides itself on its image and reputation and we – and the establishment’s matron – find him ostensibly rifling through her confidential files as the scene is set. Aggressive accusations fly with abandon, making hilarious use of idioms and beautifully painting the idiosyncrasies of the two characters and their context.

There unfolds a tale of intrigue, titillation, marital blues and money in the form of church subsidies, in its embrace of the complexities of growing old with dignity in the network of an institution designed to make things flow as smoothly as possible for its residents in their latter years. But flow is not always something reserved for the passage of time, and Jakob, still moored in his professional skills smells a rat – or rather finds some problems in the building, which enables him to worm his way into everyone’s – or at least most people’s – hearts.

It’s a happy story in which the dodgers of strict moral behaviour are ferreted out, but also a yarn which is characterised by a strong sense of empathy for the elderly and their penchant for unadulterated gossip. As you sit back and listen to this drama, you can in your mind’s eye and nose – imagine the wall paper and the walkers, the institutional smell of TuisBes and the way in which this widower becomes the one they gravitate towards.

  • Die Gang (The Gang) is written by Joe Kleinhans. Directed by Christelle Webb-Joubert, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is performed by Marintha Labuschagne, Heidi Mollentze, Janine Opperman, Ria Smit, Woutrine Theron and Louis van Niekerk. It debuts on RSG (100-104FM) on June 7 at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on June 11 at 1am in Radio Sonder Grense’s Deurnag programme, and is also available on podcast: rsg.co.za

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Robyn Sassen

A freelance arts writer since 1998, I fell in love with the theatre as a toddler, proved rubbish as a ballerina: my starring role was as Mrs Pussy in Noddy as a seven-year-old, and earned my stripes as an academic in Fine Arts and Art History, in subsequent years. I write for a range of online and print publications, including the Sunday Times, the Mail & Guardian and artslink.co.za and was formerly the arts editor of the SA Jewish Report, a weekly newspaper with which I was associated for 16 years. This blog promises you new stories every week, be they reviews, profiles, news stories or features.

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