Don’t tell anyone, but …

HAVE you heard? Gossip is under the loupe in Eleanor Combrink’s hilarious radio play Die Reine Waarheid.

A MAN EATS some preserved figs and develops a painful wind. Before you know it, the slight discomfort has turned into a severe heart attack, nay, cause for a quintuplet bypass. If there is such a thing. In the blink of an eyelid, he’s been whisked off to intensive care in Bloemfontein and is shivering on death’s door. And what’s more, his personal life is falling to bits because he’s bonking the neighbour, and takes too many little blue pills, and that’s nothing, in relation to his financial situation… This delightful Afrikaans-language radio drama offers bold and clearly defined insights into the anatomy of community gossip. It’s tragic and hilarious at the same time, and reflects an astute and really funny portrait of internal dynamics, the kind that keeps the gossip on the boil.

Beautifully structured and articulately played by a strong cast, there’s a peppering of soapie energy in this hour-long play, but it also has the kind of texture that lends itself well to the energy of community narrative. This play works in Afrikaans, but it probably would sing with just as much parochial vibrancy in Yiddish for instance.

Rich with idiomatic expressions, it’s a play about neighbourhood and about the hand-to-mouth-to-ear relating of the ‘dinkum’ truth through the proverbial grapevine. From the post office to the hardware shop, to the phone lines, between well-meaning women and their kind-natured concerned husbands, the tale under scrutiny goes through the proverbial blender and forays into the man’s bed, his bank account and his future are made with sincerely earnest speculation.

Die Reine Waarheid is a strong and clear portrait of the smallness of society, crafted with a sense of wisdom and a perfect understanding of rhythm and timing.  It’s hilarious and cynical and will keep you glued to the wireless from its honky-tonk beginning to its delightful closure.

  • Die Reine Waarheid (The dinkum truth) is written by Eleanor Lombard. Directed by Joanie Combrink, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Susanne Beyers, Johan Botha, Lida Botha, Johann Nel, Lindie Stander, Johann Stassen, Elanza Swart and Esther von Waltsleben, and debuts on Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) – 100-104fm – on Thursday, June 21 at 8pm. It will be rebroadcast on Deurnag, RSG’s all night programme, at 1am on Monday, June 25 and is also available on podcast:

Dirt under the business front

THE horror: Human trafficking is the focus of Elma Potgieter’s radio play Betrayal.

FROM THE GET go, you’re in a newspaper environment in a city where young women are currency and business fronts to terrible wheeling and dealing proliferate. This is Betrayal, an English-language radio play by Elma Potgieter, which attempts to bring in all the dirty threads that comprise the underhand stories central to our contemporary world, where little should be taken at surface value and psychopaths are hard to recognise. That is, until they are challenged.

It’s a good enough story, evoking from the first few moments, novels such as Peter Harris’s Bare Ground, or Marilyn Cohen De Villiers’s Deceive and Defend, which offer fictional insights into horrifying truths and how stories are cast into motion. But sadly, that is where the resemblance ends: Betrayal engages with the texture and urgency of a newspaper environment and a crime scene, but it is profoundly predictable in its structure and writing and often peppered with literary idioms and platitudes which compromise the realness of the characters.

Patrice Mathibela (Patrick Bokaba) is the kingpin in something that looks too good to be true. A wealthy businessman, he is set on turning the city’s problems upside down with a new establishment mooted ‘Nugget City’. He’s in a relationship with Alexa (Mpumelelo Manganya) who is also the Women’s Editor for The Voice, the newspaper which is the heart of the story. She’s the best friend of Lerato (Sibulele Gcilitshana), the paper’s news editor, who isn’t quite sure that all is kosher with her friend’s relationship.

The story gathers momentum under the watch of crime reporter, Sipho (Archie Nhlapo), and a secret letter from a young woman seals the deal. The rest happens as it must, leaving you curious as to what a news editor actually does, wondering what said letter said, and perplexed as to the absence of twists in this tale. As a result, even the title is painted in a shade too bland and unpromising, making you feel a tad betrayed.

In a sense, this work suffers from too much ambition and not enough development: in the brevity of an hour, not enough is left untold, you’re in the know from the first few moments and the denouement feels pushed in, hurriedly. Having said that, the characters are generally nicely developed and competently performed, but sometimes too many platitudes in their words make for woodenness in their presences.

  • Betrayal is written by Elma Potgieter. Directed by Posy Keogh, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Evert Snyman, it is performed by Patrick Bokaba, Emmanuel Castis, Sibulele Gcilitshana, Victor Malepe, Mpumelelo Manganya, Archie Nhlapo, Russel Savadier, and Bronwyn van Graan, and will be broadcast on SAFM – 104-107fm – on June 17 at 8pm.

In search of a broken sheep

Kolskoot Visagie
AS I lay dying: Cry of a frightened sheep is central to the tragedy in Kolskoot Visagie.

THE STAIN OF a great tragedy doesn’t readily – or perhaps ever – lose its penetrative impact on any of the people who it touched. This is the thread that binds the contemporary characters with the historical ones in Christopher Joynt’s new Afrikaans radio play, Kolskoot Visagie, a tale of sheep farmers and massive tragedy, conveyed with wisdom and biblical proportions.

Not for the faint of heart, or the easily traumatised, this story is told with grit and angst, but never loses its step in becoming maudlin or melodramatic. It’s a tale within a tale told by an older man, Oom Giel (Jacques Bosch) to his nephew (Lochner de Kock), in a contemporary framework, about a moral catastrophe that happened in the 1940s.

And as the narrative switches to the wholesomeness of a married couple in 1948 – Barend (Paul Lückhoff) and his wife Mara (Ria Smit), and their 20-year-old son Willie (Luan Jacobs), so you become embroiled in the texture, values and heartiness of their lives. The work is characterised by vistas of music which give you an understanding of the hugeness of the landscape with great eloquence.

With a focus on the most horrendous quandary a person can face, there’s a parallel with the Abraham and Isaac challenge presented by God in the Old Testament. You may think of Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s extrapolation of the same theme in his text Fear and Trembling and you wouldn’t be wrong: Either way, in Christopher Joynt’s version, there’s a spin on the consequences that will sit with you for a long time, because you are a human being.

An absolutely beautifully crafted work which offers a full-bodied understanding of space and time, love and morality, Kolskoot Visagie is unequivocally so far the finest piece of Afrikaans theatre staged on radio, this year.

  • Kolskoot Visagie (Marksman Visagie) is written by Christopher Joynt. Directed by Renske Jacobs, and featuring technical input by Patrick Monana and Bongiwe Thomas, it is performed by Jacques Bosch, Lochner de Kock, Luan Jacobs, Paul Lückhoff and Ria Smit, and debuts on Radio Sonder Grense, 100-104FM on Thursday June 14 at 8pm. The play will be rebroadcast on RSG’s all night programme, Deurnag, at 1am on Monday, June 18 and is also available on podcast:

Lulu in the sky. With spiders.

CREEPY cargo: Buckle up for your time with The Jet Set.

THE AIRPORT: A place of meeting and greeting, of tearful goodbyes and certain levels of anxiety – particularly given the history our world has faced with the complexity of flight. Playwright Frances Slabolepszy does a delicious kind of a mash up in this English medium radio play, in which she takes two event managers fairly new to the job, the whole machine of the airport, a bunch of international delegates and a film crew who are using the airport as a backdrop to their psycho drama with spiders. Not to forget a woman with jujitsu skills coupled with an anxiety disorder. In less able hands, this would have been a silly fruit salad. But it isn’t.

Slabolepszy’s work is structured with the funnies all carefully in place to their best advantage. As the play begins to unfold, so do you get swept up into the drama, unsure as to how it will unfold. Tossed into the mix is the issue of African names that do not stoop to gender specificity, and foreigners who have a slight command of English idioms. The result is complete hilarity, of the ilk you might have seen on TV in the 1970s and 1980s with the weekend series, Mind Your Language, written by Vince Powell.  Xenophobic? Not a sausage: this work is about gorgeous misunderstandings and cultural miens.

It’s a work that you are forced not to take too seriously in thinking about all the kinds of things that can go wrong in the confines of an airport, but it is put together with wisdom, beautifully cast and performed with a sense of theatrical fun and perfection. The cast brings together well established performers such as Louise St Claire and Esmeralda Bihl, together with younger, but no less seasoned thespians. You will laugh because it is funny and you will laugh because there’s an element of terror here that messes with your sense of safety.

Clocking in at just under an hour, it’s the best possible reason to stay at home this Sunday evening, with a warm cuppa and a comfortable chair.

  • The Jet Set is written by Frances Slabolepszy. Directed by Posy Keogh and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Evert Snyman, it is produced by Julia-Ann Malone and Niquita Joseph and is performed by Esmeralda Bihl, Patrick Bokaba, Ryan Flynn, Sibulele Gcilitshana, Robyn Heaney, Victor Malepe, Lerato Mvelase, Jeremy Richard and Louise St Claire. It is broadcast on SAFM (104-107FM) on Sunday, June 10 at 8pm.
  • See the work being made on this instagram video.

No home improver like an old home improver

ALTOGETHER now: Geriatic energy is in the focus of Joe Kleinhans’s Die Gang.

NEPOTISM, CORRUPTION AND other kinds of detected shenanigans in the management of a Pretoria  old aged home which has passed its prime comes under the delicious loupe of Joe Kleinhans’s vision in this lovely Afrikaans-language play with a tight structure and a strong sense of geriatric morality. It broadcasts in a few hours and is arguably one of the finest possible ways to pass an hour on a chilly winter’s evening.

Within minutes of the opening scene, we meet Jakob Swart (Louis Van Niekerk), a dapper and elderly widower with a good eye for the flaws in a building and a cell phone in his hand. He’s just moved into TuisBes, a residential place for the elderly which prides itself on its image and reputation and we – and the establishment’s matron – find him ostensibly rifling through her confidential files as the scene is set. Aggressive accusations fly with abandon, making hilarious use of idioms and beautifully painting the idiosyncrasies of the two characters and their context.

There unfolds a tale of intrigue, titillation, marital blues and money in the form of church subsidies, in its embrace of the complexities of growing old with dignity in the network of an institution designed to make things flow as smoothly as possible for its residents in their latter years. But flow is not always something reserved for the passage of time, and Jakob, still moored in his professional skills smells a rat – or rather finds some problems in the building, which enables him to worm his way into everyone’s – or at least most people’s – hearts.

It’s a happy story in which the dodgers of strict moral behaviour are ferreted out, but also a yarn which is characterised by a strong sense of empathy for the elderly and their penchant for unadulterated gossip. As you sit back and listen to this drama, you can in your mind’s eye and nose – imagine the wall paper and the walkers, the institutional smell of TuisBes and the way in which this widower becomes the one they gravitate towards.

  • Die Gang (The Gang) is written by Joe Kleinhans. Directed by Christelle Webb-Joubert, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is performed by Marintha Labuschagne, Heidi Mollentze, Janine Opperman, Ria Smit, Woutrine Theron and Louis van Niekerk. It debuts on RSG (100-104FM) on June 7 at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on June 11 at 1am in Radio Sonder Grense’s Deurnag programme, and is also available on podcast:

Two men in a sauna

BONDING in the heat: Father and son find unexpected truths for themselves and each other in Easter Island, a radio drama about loss.

PROFOUND GRIEF IS a curious cipher of very real emotions which reach much deeper than maybe you’d like. It’s a tongue loosener, a memory jolter, a redefiner. In Easter Island, a beautifully crafted English-language radio play by Anton Krueger, you get to meet a father and a son who are mourning the loss of Celestine, his wife, his mother. They’re in the sauna with some weed, a little beer, each other and their memories.

But more than a maudlin tale of sadness it’s a revealing yarn about the generational gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials and the disparate values articulated by each. It’s about the unexplained mysteries of Easter Island in the south-eastern Pacific Ocean, as it is about free love, sloppy responsibilities and secrets on the other end of the phone.

Like Retief Scholtz’s potent Afrikaans stage- and radio play Dop, which offers unexpected depths to the characters and revelations which make you understand them differently, Easter Island strips both characters of emotional defences, but leaves neither without their own edges and attitudes. Evoking the flawed professor in Lewis Gilbert’s 1983 film Educating Rita, it’s about archaeology and son-father bonding with a twist in its conclusion that you might not see coming, but one that will warm and spice your understanding of who you may be in the world, and how your parent can read you.

Primarily, the work, played with a developed sense of history and authenticity by David Butler as the father, Lothlorien opposite Julian Kruger as his adult son, Zebulon, who prefers to call himself Neil, is an essay on the ferocity of loss and the fleeting quality of life itself. Truths and mishaps, the bruises and breakages that makes the father who he is, and the son who he is, are articulated with harsh gentleness, leaving the most potent denouement to the very last.

It’s a deeply touching work, but one not without levity and a strong sense of how things are.

  • Easter Island is written by Anton Krueger. Directed by Posy Keogh, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is produced by Julia-Ann Malone assisted by Niquita Joseph and performed by David Butler, Julian Kruger and Theo Landey and will be broadcast in English on Sunday, June 3 at 8pm on SAFM, 104-107FM.

Confessions and secrets under the floor

PULLING up the carpets: Hiding places for secrets that strangers may find.

A MURDER, A suicide, a mysterious letter and a court case are the central elements of this intriguing yarn cast in the context of South African violence. Based on a true story which hit the media in 2012, Skink vir my ‘n whisky is a subtly developed Afrikaans-language drama which has several unexpected twists in its plot, where nothing is obvious and little is unequivocally revealed.

The writing and performances of the central characters in this tale of woe are beautifully developed and you can picture the give and take between friends who love each other, but still have histories and secrets. The first scenes which present an unexpected funeral are handled with sophisticated empathy. Writer Nico (Albert Pretorius), who is an aspirant magazine publisher, brutally loses his brother-in-law in a cold-blooded robbery, and the loss is too great for his sister, Roelien (Christine Tesco) to bear.

Time passes, but the wounds do not heal. It’s only when a curious incident with a letter underneath a carpet in a house being refurbished reveals another mystery, that things get cast in a different direction. While the narrative lines and sequential chronology are not always clearly outlined, you have to listen very carefully to everything, including the quoted snippets from the news on the wireless, to gather all the information you need to understand what’s at play here.

Is it about loyalty between friends? Is it about being framed? This drama that deals with nudist values and tattoos how to hide horror stories is a curious one. Premised on the ‘if you are reading this, I’m already dead’ kind of cliché that informs many a horror tale, on a level, this play demands more time to grow, and more contextual development. On another, the characters are nicely formed and lend insight into personas who you think you can trust. But can you? Altogether, it’s imminently listenable, and will keep you guessing beyond its closure as to what really happened.

  • Skink vir my ‘n whisky (Pour me a whisky) is written by Deon Johnston. Directed by Eben Cruywagen, and featuring technical input by Cassie Lowers, it is performed by Martelize Kolver, Haidee Muller, Pierre Nelson, Albert Pretorius, Wessel Pretorius and Christine Tesco, and debuts on Radio Sonder Grense at 8pm on May 31. It will be rebroadcast on RSG’s all-night programme at 1am on Monday, June 4 and is also available on podcast:

Pressure Cooker Blues

HOLD tight, it’s a count down, in Martyn Le Roux’s Hittegolf.

WHAT DO YOU do when bad news seems to come in a rolling tsunami? From disappointments at work to unexpected secrets from your children, a wife with an addiction issue and a mother-in-law with a leaking toilet and a mouth that doesn’t let up on the overriding commentary it offers? And all of this in the middle of a relentless heatwave? Tune in to RSG tomorrow evening to hear about Faan Vermaak’s plight, in a beautifully crafted work by Martyn Le Roux.

The narrative of this work is quite straight forward, but it is the manner in which it has been put together, from the gritty texture of the script and its colourful and real expletives, to the interjections of sound effects – from hadedahs to the buttering of toast – to the interweaving of snippets of sung phrases by Freddie Mercury and items from the news, that gives this story life and relevance.

And while the work follows a downward sloping path of catastrophe, there’s a levity to the approach which allows it to not become precious and earnest in its approach. The Vermaak family are real people, trying to deal with the kicks and pricks the world presents. And these come in various forms, including the demon of gambling, a sexy young plumber named Willlem, a history of lies and a box of valiums. Not to mention the yappy dog, Elvis in the house next door.

This dark comedy with its sterling cast will have you laughing at the characters and their impassioned turns of phrase almost till the very end, but it will haunt you because of its sense of realness and its superb reflection on pace. In short, it’s unmissable.

  • Hittegolf (Heatwave) is written by Martyn Le Roux. Directed by Anrich Herbst, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is performed by Mandi Baard, James Borthwick, Elize Cawood, Cassie McFadden and Franci Swanepoel, and debuts on RSG on Thursday, May 24 at 8pm on Radio Sonder Grense. There will be a repeat broadcast on RSG’s Deurnag programme, at 1am on May 28, and it is also available on podcast:

The ultimate head hunt

MY head, someone else’s body: The plight of Set Niemand in Schalk Schoombie’s Kop.

ALL SET NIEMAND really ever wanted to be was a pianist who distinguished himself from the pack. But the universe stepped in with a more complicated reward. This nifty science fiction work penned in Afrikaans by Schalk Schoombie is certainly something to cosy up to the wireless for, this Thursday night. It’s not a drama to warm the cockles of your heart in the conventional sense, but it will keep you glued to the story from the first few notes of Beethoven’s Fur Elise, which is the central thread tying the work together.

Niemand, portrayed as a child by Eloff Snyman and as an adult by Wilhelm van der Walt, is beset with what is known as Kennedy’s syndrome. It’s a spinal condition which is degenerative; deft technical design allows you to ‘see’ the damage inflicted on this young man’s sense of self. In just under an hour, the representation of the passage of time is handled with succinctness and wisdom.

And then, the possibilities of medical science steps in. And you may recall a Lindsay Duncan film in the early 1990s called Body Parts which dealt with the transplant of a murderous hand that has a mind of its own. This is the kind of thing evoked here, in this distinctly Frankensteinian tale, written within a contemporary rubric of plausible science.

While the work ends with startling and unpredictable abruptness which allows for the voice of religious believers, the point is made with clarity that will resonate with your sense of self. It’s about the intelligence of your body as you’ve taught it to do certain things, as it is about the untouchable relationship between body and soul, mind and spirit. Rather than silly gimmickry, the work touches on the magic in the therianthropes of ancient times, the man with the head of a wolf, the god with the face of an elephant, a mix of personas to create something more.

It’s an exceptionally strong piece of writing, brought to life by careful direction and editing, and of course, nuanced performances. Premised on the mythical ethos that in 1967 set Christiaan Barnard’s first successful heart transplant alive with possibility all over the world, the story touches on all the human factors of the ultimate transplant.

Make your coffee and visit the bathroom before you settle down next to the wireless on Thursday: you won’t want to miss a second of this tale.

  • Kop is written by Schalk Schoombie and directed by Johan Rademan. Featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Susanne Beyers, Karli Heine, Johann Nel, Eloff Snyman, Lindie Stander, Wilhelm van der Walt and André Weideman, and debuts on RSG on Thursday May 17 at 8pm. It will be rebroadcast at 1am on Monday, May 21, part of the radio station’s Deurnag programme. It is also available on podcast:

To the marriage of true socialites: the admission of impediments

VETERAN couple: Cobus Rossouw and Sandra Kotze give it horns.

IF THE COMPLICATED plight of an intelligent woman entrapped in a domestic structure, penned in the 19th century, is the kind of tale that grabs you, don’t go out tomorrow evening. Even if you’re not a Henrik Ibsen buff, Suzanne van Wijk’s Afrikaans-language translation of the Norwegian playwright’s 1879 classic A Doll’s House is a completely riveting achievement that offers an intimate and accurate reflection on the harsh complexities of what it takes to fight a system where you’re pinned to expectations, because of your gender. It’s longer than the normal radio drama in this slot, but you wouldn’t want it any other way.

With veteran performers, Cobus Rossouw and Sandra Kotzé in the leads, the work is crisply rendered, lending a three dimensionality to Kotzé’s Noora Helmer, that is haunting and reaches into the heart of feminist diatribes with poetry and pragmatics. Interestingly, this work uses space and distance in the honing of the narrative: you cannot picture them standing at microphones throughout, but rather skirting and moving through a set. It’s a fascinating device for radio which enables you to get a sense of the space in which they exist, as it implies the context of their 19th century Victorian home with all its bits and pieces, its miens and social codes.

It’s like there’s a tarantella being danced throughout the work on several levels, challenging  possibility and tradition, perception and reality, the notion of the woman as possession and a reflection on how she becomes self-possessed and takes life by its proverbial shirt front, with both hands.

A Doll’s House is a tale deeply entrenched in the social context of the 19th century, and Kotzé is on fire, not only in terms of how she evolves in the work’s duration, but also of how her Noora embraces the role she must play, as society wife and mother, that is, until she realises that the ‘wonderful thing’ she has been anticipating all her married life, with all the scrimping and saving, all the coy curtseying and demure giggling she’s done, will not come about.

Rossouw will also knock you sideways in his patronising and potent Torvald Helmer, Noora’s husband, a flawed giant, as he holds the proverbial golden key to his wife’s happiness and the social sanctity of their life together, or so he believes. He’s the unwitting casualty in the tale, one whom Noora risks fraud to save, but one socially incapable of understanding or engaging this courage or these nuances. Why? She’s a woman who it seems has forgotten her place. The fact that she has more savvy than she’s given credit for, by the system in which she exists links her to so many other classic heroines through literature.

It’s a portrait of the messy notion of marriage, of that of trust and sacrifice: and rather a damning one at that. Van Wijk’s translation and direction is utterly magnificent. It’s a work that will keep you glued to the wireless, not only because of Ibsen’s turn of hand in its construction, but also given the tight and authentic characterisation of the roles, which renders your radio a cipher to a whole universe.

  • ‘n Pophuis (A Doll’s House) is written by Henrik Ibsen and translated into Afrikaans and directed by Suzanne van Wijk. Featuring technical input by Elena Rabie and Loukie Olivier, it is performed by Fanie Bekker, Sandra Kotzé, Robert Mohr, Amanda Muller, Cobus Rossouw and Helena Scholtz, and will be broadcast on Radio Sonder Grense on Thursday May 10 at 8pm, and again on Monday May 14 at 1am in RSG’s Deurnag programme. It is also available on podcast: