Brahms’s lullaby: a chilling legacy

A THRILLER WITH a twist, this week’s Afrikaans-language radio drama, Nag van die Ver Musiek offers glimpses of the ghoulies that may lurk in your dreams or your closet (or your past), but it is held together chillingly with Brahms’s lullaby – played on an old music box and sung in a drunken voice by an old woman, flawed by error. Written by Engela van Rooyen-Linde and featuring Dawid Minnaar in the lead, it broadcasts this evening (29 October) on Radio Sonder Grense.

Alet (Henrietta Gryffenberg) is startled to wakefulness by her husband’s absence in bed in the rude hours of the morning. She leaps to the most ordinary conclusion that her marriage is in danger, and she’s traumatised enough to tell her daughter Lara (Ansu Visser). From this unfolds a tale of dreams and gentle music, performed at the right angle to make it spine-chilling and sinister.

Lara is convinced that her “Dadsy” is having some kind of psychological issue. Her twin brother Larry (Luan Jacobs) thinks it’s a glitch in the family’s history. A trip to London, a weird meeting with their granny (Elsabé Zietsman) and some candid conversations between the lot of them unpick the mystery in just over an hour.

On a level, it’s the kind of story that you wish was divided into cliff-hanger chapters, it evokes the kind of bizarre sequences that eventually tie together satisfactorily, penned by crime writer Lynda la Plante. But succinctly constructed, it will have you on the edge of your lounge chair as you listen.

And then there is a Gloria (the Zietsman character). Performed with wise sophistication and an understanding of how a lot of alcohol skews the focus but not the drinker’s sense that they’re doing okay, she’s the main reason you should listen to this play. Never tiptoeing into the ridiculous and yet portraying a character that you are never completely sure is mad or bad or just sorry for mistakes made, Zietsman magnificently touches the nerves that chill you to the core.

Nag van die Ver Musiek (Night of the Far Music) is written by Engela van Rooyen-Linde. Directed by Christelle Webb-Joubert, and featuring technical input by Bongiwe Thomas and Evert Snyman, it is performed by Henrietta Gryffenberg, Luan Jacobs, Dawid Minnaar, Ansu Visser and Elsabé Zietsman. It broadcasts on RSG on 29 October at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on 2 November at 1am in Radio Sonder Grense’s Deurnag programme, and is also available on podcast.

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