IF YOU SEE one show this festival – or maybe this lifetime – do whatever is necessary to get to see Firefly. In the tight and clear but unabashedly mad ethos that Sylvaine Strike opposite Andrew Buckland represent, this play touches on the big questions of life in ways so small that they are monumental. It performs at the Hilton Arts Festival, less than 20km from Pietermaritzburg, over this weekend.
This tale of conflagration and love, war and peace, takes you back in fictional history in a jumble of events that bring together the insane detail that Colombian novelist Gabriel García Marquéz and British novelist Charles Dickens are known for, involving a black vortex, an unwilling exterminator of termites, a widow of 30 years, and a valley and a river which separates two houses. Each house is resident to a man and a woman. Each couple espouses values of power which are different yet the same, comingled with a delicate understanding of cruel triggers and river stones, of a collapsible walking stick and crepuscular darkness.
And like Laura Esquivel’s gorgeous and hyperbolic 1989 novel, Like Water for Chocolate, the events that govern the lives of both the entomologist and the countess on either side of the river are wild and feverish with a touch of delirium, and sprinkled with daftness that makes the clowning work of the whole cast sing with the kind of crispness that you will not forget in a rush.
Indeed, Buckland and Strike are known for their brilliant collaborative energy, but toss the wise mischief of Tony Bentel on piano and Toni Morkel in the director’s chair into the mix, and you’ve got something as magnificent and intelligent as Tobacco and the Harmful Effects Thereof which graced the Hilton Festival in 2014. It is one of those works which knits together values that are apparently disparate – and so disparate that seeing them on the same page feels laughable – but it is in the knitting of them that they take on a life which is unique and profound and reinvents the world before your eyes.
Firefly is directed by Toni Morkel, written by Sylvaine Strike and Andrew Buckland, and produced by Saartjie Botha and Woordfees. Devised by the whole company it features live piano and musical arrangements by Tony Bentel, costumes by Sue Steele, set by Wolf Britz and the full company and it is performed by Andrew Buckland and Sylvaine Strike. It is on at the Hilton Arts Festival on Saturday September 24 at 10am and 5:30pm and Sunday September 25 at 10am in the Theatre.