Songs of angry men and their moms



EMBLEMATIC of Les Miserables, narrative lines and song: Charles J Fourie’s Vergifnis. Image courtesy

SOMETIMES RELATIONSHIPS ARE forged between people that have absolutely nothing to do with the ties of social ordinariness or the expectations of convention. Sliding carefully into archetype, these are the maverick connections necessary to bring dynamite to important ambitions. A tale of dreams, social justice and the complexity of forgiveness, Charles J Fourie’s filmic piece of Afrikaans-radio drama, Vergifnis, is one of those monumental achievements in storytelling that will take you from the chair next to your wireless to the interstices of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables in the form of a victory march against crime and poverty in Cape Town’s Parliament, with tears running down your cheeks.

Evocative not only of the French Revolution classic tale, but also of Ladj Ly’s recent extrapolation on the themes of Les Mis through a xenophobic lens in contemporary Paris, Vergifnis presents a fulsome South African tale, blending the vagaries of opportunistic crime, the availability of tik on the streets and an old woman’s final dream.

It’s about difficult relationships between mothers and their sons, and is developed with an expansive directorial hand that makes it feel wider (but not longer) than its 60 minutes’ duration, as it veers between past hurts and contemporary solaces. But more than all of this, Vergifnis is a beautiful, balanced and wisely detailed work that offers a cipher into big issues from embarrassment and betrayal to upliftment in the face of petty-feeling crime. Hal Ashby’s 1971 masterpiece Harold and Maude comes to mind in an understanding of the connection between Gallie (Jarrid Geduld) and Muriel (Amor Tredoux) and how secrets and confidences forge them both on.

And while there are overtones of themes in Daryne Joshua’s 2018 searing film Ellen, in a context not that far removed from the ugly hurly burl that street drugs and scant support brings Cape Town’s youth, the piece is fiercely uplifting. It is simply unstoppable.

  • Vergifnis (Forgiveness) is written by Charles J Fourie. Directed by Johan Rademan, and featuring technical input by Cassie Lowers, and with Maria Viviers conducting the Durbanville Hoerskool choir, it is performed by Roelien Daneel, Jarrid Geduld, Zenobia Kloppers, Wessel Pretorius, Amor Tredoux, Leandé Valentyn and Charl van Heyningen. Drawing from RSG’s archive, it debuted in 2015 and broadcasts again this evening, Thursday 30 April 2020 at 8pm. It will be broadcast again in Deurnag, the station’s all night programme, on Monday 4 May 2020 at 1am and is available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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