For the love of a painted landscape in yellow

WOMEN in love: Dirkie (Nadia Valvekens) and Hester (Cintaine Schutte). Photograph by Leslie van Wyk.

VERY, VERY RARELY may a play cross your awareness that is so perfect in all its criss-crossing of parts and references, of loss and love and birth and possibility, that you feel completely absorbed in the characters’ lives. And you hold on to each unfolding dialogic second because it is crafted with such wisdom and balance and performed with such empathetic candidness. Its perfection has as much to do with structure and narrative, and with character realisation as with the work’s inner architecture. You will weep real tears within the first ten minutes of this play as you sit on the outside looking in at the messy complexity of a relationship that could be yours. This is Phillip Rademeyer’s Huishou, the play that wowed the Aardklop festival in 2018.

Reworked for radio by Eben Cruywagen, Huishou is about Dirkie (Nadia Valvekens) and her wife Hester (Cintaine Schutte). Without bending over backwards to tout the politically appropriate line, the homosexuality of the characters is downplayed against their humanity. They are complicated individuals with important problems, revolving around the normal big issues of a committed relationship: money, sex and a dependent.

Huishou tells a tale of a difficult childhood with roots that reach deeper than bias. It speaks of loving and being loved, but having an opinion and a voice that flies in the face of platitudinous love stories, told forever and everywhere. This is not a fantasy myth that ends happily ever after. It’s a tale of a little life brought into a home to give semblance to the concept of family, as it is one about a second-hand toy bunny and a cot full of dreams.

But above all, the magnificence of this play centres on how the characters are developed. From the first few lines, you have a three-dimensional inkling of both Dirkie and Hester, and how they think and how the rhythm of their language works. In just over one and a quarter hours, two fully-formed people are evoked. Flawlessly.  

Huishou is unequivocally one of those works that are as much about the texture of the material as it is about the story itself, which has the same kind of narrative muscle as Gertrude Stein and a Companion, or Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. It’s not light-hearted fluff, but is a real theatre gem on every score. Whatever you do, don’t miss this one!

Huishou is written by Phillip Rademeyer. Reworked for radio by Eben Cruywagen, it is directed by Frieda van den Heever, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Cintaine Schutte and Nadia Valvekens. It broadcasts on RSG on 22 October at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on 26 October at 1am in Radio Sonder Grense’s Deurnag programme, and is also available on podcast.

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