To my someone who listens

LOVE that need not fear. Jana Cilliers is Hilde Kraus; Dawid Minnaar is Paul Naude. This photograph is from the 2019 staged production of Wilde Als, directed by the playwright, Wessel Pretorius. Photograph courtesy Netwerk 24.

WHEN YOU GET down and dirty with your own talent, you experience something otherworldly. It’s like being in love. It’s like looking in the mirror. It’s like pushing yourself beyond your own ability to disparage what you can do, when you really allow yourself to open your wings and fly. It’s terrifying. These are the kind of things that are explored in Wilde Als, a truly magnificent Afrikaans-language radio drama directed by Renske Jacobs, which broadcasts on Radio Sonder Grense on the evening of Thursday 11 November at 8pm.

Skirting with great maturity from anything forced or crudely whimsical, this play, which is a radio reworking of Wessel Pretorius’s eponymous staged work of 2019, is devastatingly subtle in its crafting of a sense of space, irrevocable intimacy and deeply held secrets. Yet it is encapsulated in the outwardly quiet (but inwardly tumultuous) moments of a writer of considerable acclaim, engaged in penning her last work.

And it is here where you will meet Hilde Kraus (Jana Cilliers) opposite her first lover and creative muse, Paul Naudé (Dawid Minnaar). She’s writing what she believes will be her last novel. It’s autobiographical in its leanings. She has a history of acknowledgement in the discipline of writing. And she is a person at the chronological end of her days. With Paul’s coercion, she must face the decisions untaken that haunt her life. With Paul’s help, she needs to reunderstand her value in the world.

It’s a rich, deep contemplation of dialogues that hurt, others that reveal truths, and the need to hold on to someone who listens. Blending beautiful language with a profound understanding of how music and vocalised work intertwine and criss-cross one another, this play is an impressionistic reflection of love and dialogue and art. It gives you a fully formed character with all her secrets and paths unfollowed intact. And yet, it remains a sketch. Not every line is carried to completion. Not every nuance is coloured in. Like a sophisticated drawing, this play allows some of its narrative lines to be implicit.

This is a play that you might not want to listen to but once. And, like any truly great theatrical experience, it is one that you yearn to hold onto as it flows through your ears, head and heart. This play should be published. And this version of it should be revisited many times.

Wilde Als is written by Wessel Pretorius. Directed by Renske Jacobs, and featuring technical input by Bongiwe Thomas and Johny Klein, it is performed by Jana Cilliers and Dawid Minnaar. It broadcasts on RSG on November 11 on Radio Sonder Grense at 8pm, and will subsequently be available on the radio station’s podcast reservoir:

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