When the day turns dark


THE man and the moon and me.

THE DIFFICULT AND lonely place that an illness without obvious visible signs brings remains fraught, to this day, with speculation and gossip, taboos and embarrassment. In this week’s Afrikaans-language radio drama on Radio Sonder Grense, Man op die Maan (man on the moon), written by Helena Mellet, which broadcasts on the evening of Thursday 19 December at 8pm, depression is taken in hand.

But this is not any boiler plate extrapolation of the illness. Rather, we get to meet two families: the Noltes and the Leibbrandts. Charl Nolte (Albert Maritz) is a widower with two adult daughters, Carli (Mandri Sutherland) and Bella (Roelien Daneel). He’s a cattle farmer, and like the small family in the searing Retief Scholtz play Karel se Oupa, there is a domestic maid who knows the family inside out: Mina (Lee-Ann van Rooi).

A new vet, Hennie Leibbrandt (Jacques Bessenger) has opened a practice in the area, but he comes with his own baggage: a mother, Moira, who is an insatiable gossip (Lindie Stander), and enjoys a bit of good natured interfering in other people’s business.

Love sparks between the vet and one of Nolte’s daughters. Boy meets girl. Girl wants to introduce boy to the whole family. Enfolded into this tale is a nuanced reflection of the ways in which we hide our deepest secrets from our closest loved ones. The value of the play is not only in the sensitive and wise way in which the issue of mental illness is breached, but how the relationship between two adult siblings is represented.

It’s an excellent story of making peace with the complex ways of looking at the world that you may have inherited, of the fickleness of the art world, and of how to hold on where there doesn’t seem to be anything to hold on to. It’s a particularly prescient play at this time of the year when families traditionally spend time together, as it is an important one, which addresses issues that are very real in our society. Clocking in at 10 minutes beyond the allotted hour, it’s a beautifully constructed and thoughtfully written piece which will keep you tightly focused, and holding tight, from beginning to end.

  • Man op die Maan (Man on the moon) is written by Helena Mellet. Directed by Anrich Herbst, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Jacques Bessenger, Roeline Daneel, Albert Maritz, Lindie Stander, Mandri Sutherland and Lee-Ann van Rooi, and broadcasts on RSG on Thursday December 19 at 8pm. It is rebroadcast on the station’s all night programme, Deurnag at 1am on Monday December 23 and is also available on podcast:

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