RAISING IS CHILD is a complicated exercise. More so if you’re firmly entrenched in your own sense of how things should be, if you have the old Afrikaner’s perspective on apartheid, hunting and violence as a backdrop and if the ostensible position of everyone in your life seems immutable: you, your wife, your boy child, your girl child. A difficult father/son relationship comes under Joa Bekker’s loupe in this week’s Afrikaans-language radio drama, on Radio Sonder Grense, Die Fietstoer (the Bicycle Trip).
It’s a tightly woven tale with a touch of intrigue which will keep you guessing till the very end, but it’s a work that is beautifully sprinkled with the wonder of the South African landscape. How do they do this? With colourful music that opens up vistas in your head, positioned gloriously between the play’s scenes. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The central motif of the story is a long bicycle trip – one that stretches over 10 days – between South Africa’s small towns of Upington and George.
It’s a manly kind of a challenge between two men, one in his late 60s, the other in his early 20s, and you’re not sure of the relationship between the two and the extended family until the very end, and the revelation of the trick in the tail. The use of the idea of a long trip as a psychological emetic as it were, might make you think Aha! A clichéd approach! But you’d be wrong. The texture of the trip, the relationship between the two characters and the ways in which they reveal themselves to one another, is very finely observed, written and performed, lending both protagonists a satisfying three-dimensionality.
By the end of the work, you feel that you know the old curmudgeon, Oom Johannes (Dirk Stoltz) and understand the sins he inflicted on his son, Karel (David Louw). Given the tight time parameters of the work, it’s a satisfying piece. But given your own experience of such curmudgeons, there’s a part of you that may feel that the denouement is a tad easy.
Nevertheless, it’s a very well constructed play which makes you understand what it is to travel a great distance with the wind in your hair, a stranger’s grandfather in your heart and your feet on the pedals.
- Die Fietstoer (The Bicycle Trip) is written by Joa Bekker and directed by Leon van Nierop. Featuring technical assistance by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is performed by Mandie Baard, David Louw, Miles Peter, Dirk Stoltz, Sulette Thompson, Christopher van der Westhuizen and Christine Voorendyk. It broadcasts on RSG at 8pm on Thursday, November 1 and will be repeated in the station’s all night programme, Deurnag, at 1am on Monday November 5. It is also available on podcast.