How to herd cats

THE whole world, in the choirmaster’s hands. Photograph courtesy

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN you assemble a room full of opinionated characters (and an elderly, deaf accompanist) with a deadline and a music repertoire to perform in public? Broer Gawerjal Grootwoord (Ivan Abrahams) is the choir master who has his hands full in Hallelujah Amen, a delightful piece of social commentary about women, choirs, the church and all the things in between these concepts that broadcasts on your wireless, on Radio Sonder Grense tomorrow evening, 17 December 2020, at 8pm.

This hilarious and beautifully textured piece of work features a wisely crafted understanding of character and language, but rather than tiptoe into earnestness, it ramps up the caricatures all the way. And what you get is almost a cartoon-like extrapolation on a community church choir, but one that has a profound sense of value: and it’s not in the music that comes out of the choir’s collective mouths.

Instead you find an array of personalities that colour the understanding of collaborative song. From the ditsy outspoken Poppie (Esther von Waltsleben) to the bossy Hannah (Annelize van der Ryst), the modest Bettie (Celeste Matthews Wannenburgh) and Annie, the dozy old ‘tannie’ at the organ with an impeccable sense of timing (Zenobia Kloppers), the work is fabulously cast and performed with acumen and smoothness. Together, these characters form a tapestry of sometimes pithy mirth that takes you from ugly choir dresses which are good for the posture because the fabric is so stiff, to rude anagrams that only become apparent after they are printed on unsolicited t-shirts. It’s about a pastor considered by all to be gorgeous as it is about the complicated earnestness of a community effort.

All in all, it’s another radio theatre jewel which will keep you laughing non-stop throughout. Deftly constructed with a rich understanding of local colour, idiom and nuance, it never slips into silly slapstick, but it doesn’t yield on the funny, irreverent mirror it casts on certain members of South African society. Whatever you do, don’t miss this one. It’s a tonic!

  • Hallelujah Amen is written by Ilna Fourie. Directed by Denver Vraagom and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Ivan Abrahams, Zenobia Kloppers, Celeste Matthews Wannenburgh, Royston Stoffels, Annelize van der Ryst, Esther von Waltsleben and broadcasts on RSG on Thursday 17 December at 8pm. It will be rebroadcast on Monday 21 December at 1am in the radio station’s all night programme, Deurnag, and is also available on podcast:

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