Lessons in death


THE stars and their truths and fantasies, in Philip Rademeye’s Afrikaans-language radio drama, ‘Klippe Wat Val’

WHEN A GREAT story is told, it gathers together diverse energies, glues you to its ebbs and flows and allows you to walk away with its resonances ringing and rumbling in your heart and belly. Sometimes all it takes is a 90 minute foray into a rural landscape, coloured as it is by shooting stars, improvised cairns and ghastly secrets. And sometimes that landscape can be conjured up with a tough script, some wise sound effects and great performances in a recording studio. This is what you will experience in Philip Rademeyer’s Afrikaans-language radio play Klippe Wat Val (Stones that fall) that was broadcast this evening.

About twenty minutes longer than the normal drama broadcasts in this slot, this work presents the kind of complex horrors you may know from the work of Reza de Wet – where the landscape extends like a great and long-suffering backdrop to implicit horrors. But conveying truths about two boys – one coloured and one white and born with a birth defect – that will keep you glued to the wireless, it tells of fact and make-believe, of love and not knowing your own strength that resonates with the kind of narrative skill in the novels of Barbara Mutch.

Klippe Wat Val is a story that reaches into the farm-based heart of South Africa, with dirty acts of taboo perpetrated in places that only the sun sees. It touches on the pragmatics and the cruelty of farm life in an apartheid set of values that cannot see hope for a lame creature. It presents the ideas of love and death through different sheens of compassion and practicality. With a dog named Woof and a lamb called Wolle it blends playfulness with tragedy, horror with shame.

Rivetting performances are yielded by this cast of four, headed by the fabulous June van Merch who plays the role of the family’s coloured servant Sarah, and Kammetjie (Wilhelm van der Walt), the boy with a defect in the shade of his mother’s bitter birth pangs and sense of failure. Along the lines of works such as Anders Geveer, Odd Man Out and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, for instance, Klippe Wat Val offers both empathetic and frightening insight into the logic of a young person with brain damage. It is cogent and believable, but leaves a taint of blood in its wake.

  • Klippe wat val (Stones that fall) is written by Philip Rademeyer. Directed by Ronel Geldenhuys and reworked for radio by Eben Cruywagen, it features technical input by Cassie Lowers and is performed by Susanne Beyers, Dean Smith, Wilhelm van der Walt and June van Merch and was broadcast on Radio Sonder Grense on Thursday, May 16 at 8pm. There will be a repeat broadcast on RSG’s Deurnag programme, at 1am on May 28, and the play is also available on podcast:

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