Pressure Cooker Blues

hittegolf

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: www.rsg.co.za

Stumps, spooks and hymns to tickle you

Begrafnis

THE opportunist waiting for more: A hyena steals the moment in ‘n Voorlopige Begrafnis.

GHOULS READY TO pilfer your soul residing at the bottom of the garden, superstition and ritual and a septic wound are the ingredients that give ‘n Voorlopige Begrafnis (a Provisional Funeral), Albert Short’s Afrikaans radio drama which broadcasts this Thursday evening, a healthy dollop of the unexpected. Blended with his careful and nuanced, cruel yet fond portrayal of the characters with all their foibles and asides makes this a dark comedy which you won’t forget in a hurry.

Jan (Robbie Wessels) is a sheep farmer with a penchant for telling ghost stories. His wife, Esther (Janine Opperman) duly does her loving wifely duty, and all is well, but then a chance wound inflicted and a spontaneous visit from the in-laws become a cipher for bad and hysterically funny things.

The story has several gloriously bizarre twists in its tale, but you come away with a sense of moral rectitude and value. It’s far from sunshine and roses all the way, and encapsulates a madness of thinking and the opportunism of a hyena amidst a singing of hymns over death rituals that are improvised based on their need.

Featuring violin that skitters between being ghostly and feeling amateur, the work has a strong and well developed sense of local texture. It’s clearly structured and well articulated, giving you a provocative sense of the farm, its context and all its challenges and of the scenario that represents the denouement and its dark hilarity. All in all, it’s a lovely piece of work which will make you laugh, as it will make you a tiny bit hysterically queasy, yet sober, as it unfolds.

  • ‘n Voorlopige begrafnis (A provisional funeral) is written by Albert Short, winner of the 2017 Sanlam Afrikaans radio drama competition. Directed by Christelle Webb-Joubert, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is performed by Eswé Bruwer, Janine Opperman, Rian Terblanche, Karen Wessels and Robbie Wessels with Carla Redelinghuys on violin. It debuts on RSG on May 3 at 8pm, will be rebroadcast on May 7 at 1am and is also available on podcast: www.rsg.co.za

Poison Ivy and the face I show the world

Oorlewing

TWO women talking: Denise (Franci Swanepoel) opposite Klara (Mandi du Plooy-Baard) in radio drama Oorlewing C Blok. Photograph courtesy Radio Sonder Grense.

ONE OF THE ironies of being alive in this world is that in order to survive, you lie. You lie about everything, actually. All the time. If you feel bad or sad or ill or depressed, you lie by smiling in the face of deep sadness. You cover up the scariness of radical emotion with bravado. And it’s not a sin: it’s a tactic. The rawness of released tears are scary for the one having to witness them. They’re also scary for the one having to sniff them back. This is the psychological reality that young playwright Erica Harris beautifully explores in her debut Afrikaans-language work Oorlewing C Blok, which will be broadcast on Thursday evening.

It’s a boy-meets-girl-in-the-elevator-of-a-big-block-of-flats kind of story, but it evolves in a way that you cannot predict. What you do need to do is have some tissues on the ready – the denouements of the work are tight and subtle, constructed with a deft directorial hand and a strong pen. It’s also extremely well performed, with Franci Swanepoel in the key role of Denise, aka Poison Ivy, an ostensibly homeless woman who holds onto her stability and her tsatskes that are kind of for sale, tightly.

Swanepoel leads the work with charm and fierceness, deep vulnerability and gravelly toughness. As you listen to how she articulates Denise, a woman with a complicated history, and a difficult present, you know her instinctively. You watch her shut her emotions tight and only let them free when she considers herself safe to do so. And with all her bitterness and complexity, she’s an old soul who can see into the naiveté of Daniel (Kaz McFadden) and Klara (Mandi du Plooy-Baard) who skirt around one another playing the centuries-old game of flirting.

As the play unfolds – and congratulations are due to the technical team who construct the lift door of an ageing building aurally with such acuity, you know almost everything about the building itself,  including its architecture and how it smells – a whole neighbourhood is cast around the recorded word and the interregna of alternative Afrikaans music.  And as each character is developed hauntingly into three dimensions, so do you discover things about each of them – and yourself – that will make you weep.

A wise and developed essay on the rawness of loss and the need to behave as though you’re okay when you’re very far from being that, it’s a story which delivers the death of a loved on in the silences between words, and one which celebrates one’s parents in a way which flies in the face of the obvious.  It’s a play that will make you look at that homeless person you pass every day with empathetic curiosity. And it’s the kind of work that shifts your place in the world.

  • Oorlewing C Blok (Survival in Block C) is written by Erica Harris, the 2017 winner of the Sanlam young playwright competition. Directed by Renske Jacobs, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Evert Snyman Jr, it is performed by Mandi du Plooy-Baard, Kaz McFadden, Franci Swanepoel and Richard van der Westhuizen. It will be broadcast on RSG — 100-104FM — on Thursday April 5 at 8pm and will be rebroadcast at 1am on Monday 9 April, in the station’s all night programme, Deurnag. It is also available on podcast: rsg.co.za

Head to head with a bunny

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WHO came first: the chocolate egg or the Easter bunny? Photograph courtesy rsg.

THEOLOGY MEETS CHOCOLATE commercialism in this tender little Afrikaans-language Easter comment with a sweet heart and a poignant back story that reflects on purism and the struggles of the elderly. Quintin Roy en die Paashaas (Quintin Roy and the Eastern Bunny) is Radio Sonder Grense’s Easter play which will be broadcast twice on Good Friday this year. It’s a poignant reflection that grows out of a chance meeting between an actor doing the Easter Bunny shtick in a shopping centre and a curmudgeon of a retired priest who lives in a facility for the elderly.

And it’s more than a conflict of chocolate interests. Featuring Francois Stemmet as the decidedly miserable old man called Lodewyck Broderick, and Johny Klein in the bunny suit, the work is an essay on the seriousness of Christian symbols and the platitudes cast in the wake of fertility icons such as rabbits and eggs. Coated all over with a chocolate veneer and a shot of cynicism, this foray into the priorities and dialogues around the table of a home for the elderly, sees an Easter message blossom into fulsomeness.

A little disappointing in the denouement department, the work is sweet and slightly wooden: it promises hilarity with the filching of a whole basket full of promotional chocolate eggs, and the angry conflict between a man in a hurry and another guy in a bunny suit, but the former pastor’s cross sense of conviction keeps the dialogue earnest and discursive and doesn’t allow it to lose its religious edge.

If you’re expecting something that will change your life, Quintin Roy might disappoint, but if you’re looking at a competently developed piece of narrative to stimulate your Easter perambulations, it may be just the ticket.

  • Quintin Roy en die Paashaas is written and directed by Helena Hugo. Featuring technical assistance by Bongi Thomas and Patrick Monana, it is performed by Merlin Balie, Johny Klein, Bertha le Roux-Wahl, Elma Potgieter, Francois Stemmet, Gigi Strydom and Bronwyn van Graan. It will be aired on RSG, 100-104fm at 1pm and again at 7pm on Good Friday, March 30: rsg.co.za

Broken dreams and sibling lies

spieelbeeld

HAPPILY ever after: Andrea (Donnalee Roberts) and Wynand (Ivan Botha). Photograph courtesy rsg.

GIRL HAS HER heart broken. She goes away to recover and meets someone new. And they all end happily ever after. You think you can hear the chimes of mainstream wedding bells in the near distance. But you’d be wrong – not entirely, but mostly: Ronel Mostert’s Spieëlbeeld (Mirror Image) is an engaging and well defined romantic piece of storytelling in Afrikaans, and it’s a very good reason to stay at home and listen to the wireless tonight.

Featuring performances by Donnalee Roberts as Andrea opposite Cindy Swanepoel, her sister Minka, the work is a love story, but bears and underlying complex message about sibling rivalry, sibling loss and sibling honour. The title of the work reveals a little more of the plot than you might have considered and it becomes a tad predictable as it unfolds, but it will keep you on the edge of your seat: Will Andrea find true love? Will the inimitable Vlooi (Eloise Cupido), the help at a hotel in Camps Bay, and her loose gossipy tongue find its come-uppance?

Ultimately the message of this nuanced and tightly written work is one articulated centuries ago by the Greek philosopher Plato: Be kind, everyone you know is carrying a great burden. But when you lead the life of a busy family doctor, juggling romantic commitments with an ailing mother, and trying to keep a straight and professional face to the world, it’s not that simple.

There are hairpin bends in the story, which bring it to a satisfying and strong sense of closure, one which makes you remember why soppy clichés are very powerful in our society.

  • Spieëlbeeld (Mirror Image) is written by Ronel Mostert and directed by Christelle Webb-Joubert, with technical assistance by Bongi Thomas and Evert Snyman. It is performed by Ivan Botha, Eloise Cupido, Mandie du Plooy-Baard, Donnagh Lee Roberts, Amanda Strydom, Cindy Swanepoel, Bronwyn van Graan and Karen Wessels, on RSG, tonight December 14 at 8pm. It will be rebroadcast on December 18 at 1am in RSG’s Deurnag programme. It is also available on podcast: rsg.co.za.
  • RSG can be found on 100-104FM, on DStv channel 913 or live on http://web.sabc.co.za/digital/player/1.0/rsg/index.html#listenLiveTab
  • See this interview with director, Christelle Webb Joubert, which offers insight into the project’s back story.

How to hold infinity in the palm of your hand

Luigi Pirandello

TAKE my hand and let me share my humanity: Luigi Pirandello wrote The Man with the Flower in his Mouth in 1922. Photograph by Gianni Ansaldi.

THE MAGIC OF radio theatre, when it is well done, knows no bounds. In the hands of competent theatre makers, the project is unrestrained by the complexities or cost of set or the challenges of lighting or costumes. Armed only with crisply uttered language, delivered with beautiful coherence, the director casts a whole world in the head and sensibilities of a listener. And this is what you get in the Afrikaans translation of Luigi Pirandello’s 1922 play, The man with the flower in his mouth, which debuted on Radio Sonder Grense on November 30 2017, but is available for purchase on podcast.

It’s an extraordinary piece of theatre premised on a simple idea and brought to muscular life with words so beautiful, you will want to eat them, but when you understand the thrust of this short work, you leap back with a realisation that reaches into your very sense of mortality.

Two men (Chris van Niekerk and Anrich Herbst) meet by chance at a bar near a railway station. They’re strangers to one another. The one has missed his train. The other has some things to share. Things that resonate with the idea of being present in the present. Things like the idea of cleaving to the minuscule details and humdrum gestures in the lives of strangers. Things such as the pondering of the substance of the furniture in a good doctor’s waiting room.

Like a character in a Gabriel García Márquez novel, or the implied personage in the William Blake poem, he holds the secret of his mortality hidden, yet close to the surface. He speaks of the joy of boredom and the roots of a lust for life. He has an illness, a tumour – a flower if you will – inside his mouth. Evoking plays of the ilk of Freud’s Last Session, the work deals with the horror and embarrassment of transfiguring illness and imminent death, but it does so in a removed context that forms and mouths and asks questions about the fragility, the preciousness of existence. It’s a work about death, reflecting on it as a logical defining border to life. And it’s a work which offers insight into the values that Pirandello brought to theatre making; gestures which opened the doors to absurdist possibilities and a breaking down and a rebuilding of theatre tradition.

The work in Afrikaans is completely extraordinary – it’s a very fine translation – and within seconds, you’re there woven into the text and surrounded by Pirandello’s black humour cast by a man carrying a very large burden, that is his own, but effectively, the lot of everyman.

It’s a beguilingly simple play that brings humour to the horror of illness, as it gives potency to the simple, complex art of conjuring invisible theatre. On this imaginary stage, presented in the proverbial dark space of radio, it’s a real achievement: an instant Afrikaans classic.

  • Die man met die blom in sy mond (The man with the flower in his mouth) is written by Luigi Pirandello and translated into Afrikaans by FB Van der Merwe. Directed by Christelle Webb-Joubert, and featuring technical input by Bongi Thomas and Evert Snyman, with Kobus Burger as executive producer, drama, for the radio station, it is performed by Anrich Herbst and Chris van Niekerk, and debuted on RSG on November 30 and is available on podcast: rsg.co.za.
  • See this interview with Christelle Webb-Joubert which offers insight into the project’s back story.