Love and the edge of doom



I wanna hold your hand. Photograph courtesy

WHAT DOES IT mean to tell someone you love them? Is it a silly, easy cliché; does it mean you promise to love them, come what may, and do whatever you can to preserve that love, that life? Or does it mean you will honour their last wishes, no matter how terrible those wishes might seem to be to you. Genade (Mercy) is a tough and deeply sensitive work crafted with great thoughtfulness, courage and wisdom, and not a little levity, by Marita van der Vyver. It broadcasts this evening at 8pm on Radio Sonder Grense.

Door (June van Merch) and Cas Stuurman (Charlton George) are educated and articulate. They play word games and read and laugh with the complex abandonment of a couple who have been together for a long time and who have weathered heart break and hardship. She is a retired school teacher. He was in the media in the days when the media was the newspaper with all its slugs, ink stains and blue subbing pencils.

And then, a diagnosis comes along that rips into both of their senses of self with a guttural and unrelenting reality. It’s something neither of them could have anticipated and it wreaks a radical rethinking of self in both of them. This play is told with the kind of devastating candour that doesn’t allow it to simper into sweet platitudes but might leave you a total wreck by your wireless – even if you haven’t been through the horror of this kind of loss. There’s an ethos in this work that calls to mind the rawness of the 2004 Javier Bardem film The Sea Within, and the depth of focus of the 2017 Helen Mirren film The Leisure Seeker, as it brings together in a rich tapestry of nostalgia and wit, Elvis songs and Shakespeare ballads, two lives lived with three-dimensionality, realness and an understanding of the preciousness of time.

It’s curious that the word ‘genade’ in Afrikaans translates both as ‘grace’ and as ‘mercy’. In Van der Vyver’s pen, this is completely apt, blending the vagaries and fun of Scrabble and crosswords with their converse. Bring tissues. Boxes of them.

  • Genade (Mercy) is written by Marita van der Vyver. Directed by Margot Luyt, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Marvin-Lee Beukes, Charlton George and June van Merch. It broadcasts on RSG on 23 April 2020 at 8pm – or after the Presidential announcement – will be broadcast again in Deurnag, the station’s all night programme, on Monday 27 April 2020 at 1am and is available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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