The value of camel hair

ICONIC characters of yore: Mary, Jesus and John the Baptist, from a mosaic in the Church of Haggia Sophia in Istanbul. Photograph courtesy

AFRIKAANS RADIO THEATRE: A REVIEW. SUPPORTED BY APPROPRIATE skill and humility, bible stories can be seen as a cipher for lessons of morality. Ask any preacher who stands at the pulpit, week after week. But if you take a listen to Joey van Niekerk’s riveting work Die Kleed, this Good Friday, you will realise something more. The work, which broadcasts on Radio Sonder Grense at 1pm on 2 April, takes the biblical tale, renders it in everyday Afrikaans and in so doing, stripped of staidness, the story offered is as and guttural as if you were present in Jerusalem at the time.

And who would you be, at Jerusalem, at the peak of Christ’s career? Probably Mr and Mrs Jewish Ordinary, who become aware of the narrative of Christ and his persecution, crucifixion and legacy through everyday parlance, gossip and hearsay. This doesn’t mean that the miracles in this play are understated or handled flippantly, but rather, that the story of Christ is reflected in the eyes and opinions of the guy in the street. It’s about the disappointment of Jewish parents when their son elects to be a Roman soldier. About the understanding of the notion of a miracle that can heal with touch and it is about conviction on potent, mystical levels.

A powerful work drawn in strong linguistic lines that evokes Colm Toibin’s significant play The Testament of Mary, played by South African performer Patricia Boyer in 2014, or the explorations conducted by novelist Nikos Kazantzakis into the what ifs surrounding the story of Christ, Die Kleed occasionally teeters on the brink of being an unabashed vehicle of Easter values. With the performances of this able and sophisticated cast, however, it holds its own as a piece of biblical engagement rather than a by rote extrapolation of an old story.

In putting New Testament values and articulations into the mouths of ordinary folk, van Niekerk achieves something both down to earth and profoundly rich in an understanding of Christian values, particularly potent at this time of year. Whether you observe Easter or not, this is a muscular and provocative piece of radio theatre.

  • Die Kleed (The Garment) is written by Joey van Niekerk. Directed by Ina Strydom, and featuring technical input by Frikkie Wallis and Bongi Thomas, it is performed by Pietie Beyers, Lochner de Kock, Anton Dekker, Johny Klein, Paul Luckhoff, Elma Potgieter and Ria Smit. It broadcasts on RSG on Good Friday, 2 April at 1pm. The play will also be available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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