Things that go bump in the night

ANGRY ghosts in old houses are on the menu on Radio Sonder Grense tonight. Photograph courtesy

IN AN ERA rotten with cynicism and broken dreams, the pristine magic of true supernatural horror almost feels anachronistic, and it takes a strong directorial wisdom to be able to re-establish a sense of the scary without slipping into spoof. This is what you can expect in the Afrikaans radio drama slot on Radio Sonder Grense this evening (3 December 2020), with the reworking of two of ID du Plessis’s ghost stories: Die Kaptein en sy Vrou and Die Spook van Tant Letjie.

While both of the works in this double bill tread along the lines of well-used spooky clichés, it is their handling and the performances of their casts that brings them gravitas and listenability, in a way that will make your skin crawl and not your belly laugh.

In the first instance, you get to travel to the mid-nineteenth century and a small Russian town named Lipsty, where Captain Yandachenko (Deon Lötz) and his young family and the men he commands militarily, take up residence in an old house. The house has its own opinions about the new residents and the play, like Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw embraces something more than an easily explainable poltergeist. Interjected with wonderfully dramatic and fresh phrases from Modest Mussorgsky’s legend-based series of works known as Night on Bald Mountain, the play is startling and dramatic and offers just that necessary frisson of spiritual uncertainty in its denouement.

Set in the early twentieth century in the Eastern Cape, the second part of this delightful double bill skirts with no less skill around what makes your flesh go pimply and cold. A young schoolmistress (Jane de Wet) is new to a job in a village school and she is staying at an establishment nearby. Only the establishment in question has more secrets than the pragmatic young teacher thinks. With a delightful performance by Zenobia Kloppers as ‘Tamita’, the housekeeper of said establishment, blending a sense that she’s always eating toast and jam in her conversations with her tenant as she quietly ramps up the gas-lighting games all the way, she evokes Bette Davis’s character in the creepily memorable 1962 film, Whatever happened to Baby Jane?

It’s a jewel of a double bill, this evening. Delivered with clarity and directness, it will entertain and transfix you as only the theatre of the mind can, for a delicious and intriguing hour. But beware: It may make you hesitate for a long moment or two before you turn out the lights to go to bed tonight.

  • Die Kaptein en sy Vrou is written by ID du Plessis and reworked for radio by André Kotze. Directed by Johan Rademan and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Deon Lötz, Johann Nel, DeKlerk Oelofse, Juanita Swanepoel and Mariechen Vosloo.
  • Die Spook van Tant Letjie is written by ID du Plessis and reworked for radio by André Kotze. Directed by Johan Rademan and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Jane de Wet, Anrich Herbst, Zenobia Kloppers and André Samuels.
  • Both plays broadcasts on RSG on Thursday 3 December at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on Monday 7 December 6 at 1am in the radio station’s all night programme, Deurnag, and is also available on podcast:

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