The sewing machine that broke the camel’s back

NOT enough hands? This is the plight of Ivan Ivanovich in ‘n Tragiese Kerel. Photograph courtesy

WHAT DO YOU do when your moaning pal slips in a “and might I borrow your revolver for the night?” kind of a question? If you’re Alexei Alexeyevich (Johann Nel), you lend him, instead, your ear. This is the nub of another delicious bit of Chekhov, magicked into Afrikaans by Nico Luwes (who plays the hapless guy in question). ‘n Tragiese Kêrel, which broadcasts on Radio Sonder Grense on 1 October brings you just under half an hour of rich Russian sarcasm and sexism as tight and crispy and hot under the collar as you could wish for.

With a naughty taunt at political correctness, the work is a tale of woe that brings in everything from a wife with demands to the mosquitoes that go buzz in the night. On paper, there’s not much else. But on air, it’s an utterly tasty bit of repartee that is as much about faux empathy and keeping a straight, and listening, face as it is about the freedom to lose your cool in the company of a friend.

Delivered in clear and beautiful Afrikaans, it takes you to St Petersburg in the 1880s and presents you with a “hen-pecked” husband and the go-to guy of his family. Like Ou Wyntoon en die Weerlose Kreatuur, which broadcast last week, it paints a concise but hilarious picture of marriage that, rather than just sunshine and roses, also gives the man a bicycle on his back, some salt in his pocket, a little guitar strapped to his chest and crocodiles in his dreams. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Tune in after the 2pm news for a morsel of Chekhov that might change the tone of your whole day.

‘n Tragiese Kêrel (A tragic guy) is based on a short story by Anton Chekhov and translated and reworked for radio by Nico Luwes. Directed by Amor Tredoux, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Johann Nel and Nico Luwes. It broadcasts on RSG on 1 October, just after the 2pm news, and is also available on the radio station’s podcast archive.

1 reply »

Leave a Reply