YOU SHOULD NEVER look a gift horse in the mouth, they say. And sometimes that gift horse comes in a surprising form. In Die Selle, this week’s Afrikaans-language radio drama, which airs on Thursday night, Magda Retief (Karen Wessels) is a woman who lives on a South African farm. She’s married to Deon (Jacques Botes), a man who is very rude. He’s untrustworthy. He has revolting habits. She’s in total distress. But there may be a solution, she figures. She has met a scientist invested in the dodgy fields of cell transmutation and cloning, and silently submits Deon into ostensibly capable scientific hands. And along the lines of Franz Kafka’s 1912 story Metamorphosis, which sees a young man transformed into a huge insect, under the pen of playwright Herman Cronjé, a totally hilarious tale emerges, bringing in issues such as animal husbandry and cannibalism, and acknowledging the local cleric in ways that will make you fall off your chair with laughter.
Couched in porcine idioms and slang, it’s a story that evokes a Schalk Schoombie radio play called Kop, which was broadcast on RSG last year, lending a science fiction edge into a sense of contemporary medical possibility. Only, Cronjé tosses logic to the wind and you get a level of cellular transmutation that finds Deon, or the creature that he’s become, in the most hilarious of situations, involving a tail, a snout and pig’s ears: the things that pigs hear with, not the biscuits similarly named. To say nothing of the slippages between human laughter and squeals and snorts. Everyone is in a state of disarray about this catastrophe in their decent homely lives.
It’s a yarn with a moral caught in its curly tale, but an easy moral. You laugh with abandon at poor Magda’s plight as each character in her family and context learn the shocking reality of this metamorphosis. The first comedic foray of director Renske Jacobs, the work is tightly constructed, deliciously enacted and makes for an excellent listening experience, coupled as it is with music that offers a sense of wit and a sense of farmyard dynamics. The finest possible reason to stay home and at the wireless, this Thursday!
- Die Selle (Cells) is written by Herman Cronjé. Directed by Renske Jacobs, and featuring technical input by Olebogeng Monana and Bongi Thomas, it is performed by Jacques Botes, Eloise Cupido, Johny Klein, Paul Lückhoff, Ria Smit, Francois Stemmet and Karen Wessels. It debuts on RSG on April 18 at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on April 22 at 1am in Radio Sonder Grense’s Deurnag programme, and is also available on podcast.