REVIEW: AFRIKAANS RADIO PLAY, MY MENSE.
A TALE OF life and death, disappointment and purple pencil crayons, Dot Serfontein’s yarn My Mense (My People) is not about great manoeuvres in socio-political injustice. It is not a big story of major seismic shifts. Rather, something like 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud’s inward-looking Le Buffet, an ode to a cupboard, the work is a nostalgic essay about chickens, love, loss and great happiness. It is this week’s Afrikaans-language radio drama, which broadcasts at 8pm tonight on Radio Sonder Grense.
Similar, directorially, to the interpretation of Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena, reviewed on this blog recently, My Mense is largely a one-person work, with interjections by voices and sound effects to lend it texture. With veteran performer Antoinette Kellerman at the helm, it resonates with a depth of focus, forcing the visual richness of the images evoked in words into your head and heart and your own memories of similar things.
Arguably, without Kellerman’s gravelly tones and the detailed energy of the beautifully hewn Afrikaans text, this work could easily slip into dull platitudes, but it is the way in which it is conceived, crafted and presented that lends it a solemnity, a sense of wit and a poetic unity that will give you goosebumps. You can’t get enough of Kellerman’s voice gently and mellifluously, but robustly describing the character’s life, which like all of our lives, is speckled with hardships we couldn’t imagine we’d have to face and achievements we fear to wish for, for ourselves, afraid of disappointment.
It is a wonderfully wrought piece of literature that considers how old people fall like trees but break like glass; what it takes for a girl to retain her sense of decency; and the unequivocal wisdom of hens. Above all, the hens. You’ll never again look at another little brown – or black – hen, with the same eyes.
- My Mense (My People) is written by Dot Serfontein and adapted for radio by Juanita Swanepoel. Directed by Eben Cruywagen, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Antoinette Kellerman with Johann Nel and Frieda van den Heever. It broadcasts on RSG on 14 May 2020 at 8pm and will be broadcast again in Deurnag, the station’s all night programme, on Monday 18 May 2020 at 1am. It is also available for free download on podcast through the radio station’s website: rsg.co.za