Whistle three times, if you want me

ALONE with my sister. The radio play Naand Josef features Rina Nienaber and Elzabe Zietsman as two elderly sisters.

VERY OCCASIONALLY, YOU may be lucky enough to come across a piece of radio theatre which makes you remember why the wireless has unequivocal superiority over the slippery slick ostensibly perfect technology our world is heir to, on digital film. Albert Short’s spooky Afrikaans-language work Naand Josef, which aired on Radio Sonder Grense this evening, under the direction of Renske Jacobs, touches all the necessary buttons of horror, including its corollary of humour to give you the right measure of chills and thrills, spiced with a hairpin bend of uncertainty.

And its brilliance is about story as much as it is about casting and creative energy and skill. Naand Josef is a tale of felons, superstitions, ghouls and old ladies who believe they have time on their side and are not afraid to use it. It’s about accidents and murders and a local cop who has her heart in the right place and her professional savvy in place – or so we think. Structured with a lyrical sense of repetition, the work is brought to life with a cast that works beautifully together, and features a sound track that weaves and twists through the narrative, playing with traditional horror tropes such as creaking doors, chiming clocks and unexplained noises after midnight. And yet, quirkiness aside, it retains that element of the unknown that doesn’t allow it to collapse into a morass of spoof.

Naand Josef is a fabulous yarn set in a farm in a small village in the middle of nowhere in South Africa, that may evoke the bizarre prologue at the beginning of the Coen Brothers’ 2009 film A Serious Man, as it touches on the volte face central to Sleuth, the 1972 film featuring Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier. Above all, it’s a portrait of nonagenarians in a deliciously feisty way that calls to mind not only women of the ilk of Maggie Smith, Bette Davis, Judi Dench and Lillian Gish, amongst others, but enables performers such as Elzabe Zietsman and Rina Nienaber to stretch their performance muscles in that direction, offering an understanding of old age with a spot of weed, a touch of violence and a deep sip of sisterly impatience.

  • Naand Josef (Good Evening, Joseph) is written by Albert Short. Directed by Renske Jacobs and featuring technical input by Bongiwe Thomas, it is performed by Charlie Bougeunon, Eloise Cupido, Rina Nienaber and Elzabe Zietsman. It broadcast on RSG at 8pm on 28 April, and will also be available on podcast through the radio station’s website:

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