The cardinal who couldn’t.



FALLEN women in a society ruled by misogyny. Witch burnings comes under the loupe in Die Heks, a play by C Louis Leipoldt. Image courtesy

THE 15TH CENTURY and its misogyny in Europe is legend. Iconic Afrikaans writer C Louis Leipoldt takes on the mantle worn by Umberto Eco, John Whiting and Arthur Miller in their contemplation of the phenomenon of witch burning, in a magnificent piece drafted with succinct lines and an evocative plot. Die Heks draws from Radio Sonder Grense’s podcast archives and clocking in at just under 30 minutes, it’s a remarkably potent essay on doubt and madness, couched in the cocoon of blind faith.

Cast with mastery around two women – a mother and a daughter – accused of being witches and a cardinal in his red gown armed with harsh asceticism, cruel responsibilities and a murky past, this is a taut and evocative work which touches on the type of dizzying drama in Eco’s The Name of the Rose, as it evokes an understanding of a world caught up in the frenzy of its own illogical religious fervour.

The brevity of the piece necessitates much that is implied and it wins: with tight writing, an implied and developed sense of context, and an urgency that you will feel with your own blood pressure, this work has a denouement that will make you think of Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. It’s a work of torment and regret that won’t leave you for a while.

  • Die Heks (The Witch) is written by C Louis Leipoldt. Directed by Beckie Kemp, and featuring technical input by Karen Gravett and Evert Snyman, it is performed by Lochner de Kock, Rika Sennett, Francois Stemmet, Richard van der Westhuizen, Marcel van Heerden and Christelle Webb-Joubert. It was broadcast on RSG on 10 May 2012 and is available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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