When the cat’s away …



ALTOGETHER now… the complexity of being in a facility of the elderly comes under the loupe in ‘Wolf-Wolf hoe laat is dit?’. Photograph courtesy

IT TAKES A particular kind of empathy to reflect on the messy values of human deterioration or imperfection without slipping into the cripplingly clichéd or maudlin. It takes an even more incisive understanding of what makes us human beings tick, to introduce humour in reflecting on something as a complicated and potentially grim and serious as old age. Like Miloš Forman’s film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Hennie Aucamp’s Afrikaans radio drama, Wolf-Wolf Hoe Laat is Dit? embraces a whole rich spectrum of humanity which is at once screechingly funny and deeply troubling.

The matron of a facility for the elderly has a personal issue which takes her, for a period of time, away from her charges, and thus the potential for havoc breaks loose. There’s the one who’s deaf as a post, and another who gossips and judges relentlessly. Another has dementia, a fourth is philosophical. Alcohol is imbibed and games, played. These are like unbridled children with know-how that has been forgotten.

It’s a rich and thoughtful piece that skilfully blends an understanding of time with an empathy for how difficult an old age institution really is: these are not felons. They are not school children, and they’ve lived lives replete with intellect and careers, with values and credibility. Here they are, sinless but punished, in the company of demented and spiteful strangers, in their final years.

The work clocks in at just 26 minutes and like the best of Japanese haikus, it touches on values rich and flammable, from transience to forgotten dreams, fears to cruelty and naughtiness, and then, it moves on, leaving you fabulously entertained but deeply haunted. Will this kind of context be your final place, too?

  • Wolf-Wolf Hoe Laat is Dit? (Wolfie, Wolfie, what’s the time?) is written by Hennie Aucamp. Directed by Margot Luyt, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Kitty Albertyn, Lida Botha, Neels Coetzee, Trix Pienaar, June Seymour, Wilna Snyman, Juanita Swanepoel, Louis van Niekerk, Marga van Rooy and Deidre Wolhuter, with Albie van Schalkwyk on the piano. It was broadcasts on RSG on 8 May 2020 at 8pm and will be broadcast again in Deurnag, the station’s all night programme, on Monday 11 May 2020 at 1am and is available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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