The boy with a snake tattoo

HARBINGER of catastrophe, or cool decoration? Listen to Hulle noem hom Mamba tonight on RSG. Photograph courtesy

LUCK CAN BE a double-edged sword: it can give and take in batches and in ways that may make your self-belief feel as though it is falling through the floor. Debut theatre work by 21-year-old Stellenbosch University student, Adriaan Havenga, Hulle noem hom Mamba is a tale of anxiety and fear and intermingles the playing out of the most terrifying and inconceivable nightmares of Elbie Hattingh (Joanie Combrink). It’s a beautifully made work which outrageously belies the youth of the playwright. It broadcasts at 8pm on the evening of Thursday 8 April, on Radio Sonder Grense.

Elbie’s a recently-widowed writer, dealing with the rash of hardship that someone with lots of talent but not a lot of paid-work opportunity has. All at once, she’s raising a son, nursing her own sense of not being good enough and battling her scary dreams intertwined with her sense of tragic and sudden loss.

She’s written a manuscript. The editor associated with a publishing house is sweet on her and coming to visit. Hopes reign high for her future and what it may hold.

And then, for the want of some bicarbonate of soda for a recipe she is making, and with a knock on the door, her realities begin to skitter in places she could not have dreamed of. Not even in the fictional tales she constructs.

If this was a novel, it would be the kind of page-turner that takes you through the night. But as a radio theatre work, it will see you holding tight to the seat of your chair and strained over the wireless as you listen. With great empathy and an excellent script, it paints a portrait of a creative person who is holding on to the universe and its pragmatics by her whitened knuckles.

Touching on the mystical values of Tennessee Williams’s play The Rose Tattoo, which featured recently in translation on this radio station, it’s a uniquely South African tale which dips and sweeps around how children can be complicated to raise alone, as well as the dangers of the wide-open world, coloured as they may be with gangsterism and drug use, particularly, if you have a penchant for doing naughty things like getting scary tattoos in alarming places.

Boasting an exceptionally fine cast and a strong soundscape that brings the whole story from the theatre of the mind to your mind’s eye quickly, the star of this play is unequivocally Wilhelm van der Walt, who plays Lian, Elbie’s son. Balancing the playfulness of a youngster in his late teens, with the hurt that can mistakenly be inflicted with triggers, he is supportive toward his fragile mom, but carries the burden of the hugeness of the catastrophe that transpires, like a man, understanding the hairpin bend in the story almost before you do.

Stay as close as you can to your radio this Thursday: this play’s a knock-out.

  • Hulle noem hom Mamba (They call him ‘Mamba’) is written by Adriaan Havenga. Directed by Anrich Herbst, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Joanie Combrink, Andre Samuels, Kay Smith, Wilhelm van der Walt and Nadia Valvekens. It broadcasts on RSG on Thursday 8 April at 8pm, it will also be available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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