How to say it for always

vlerke

LETTING go of an angel: the underpinning theme in Janine van der Linde’s Vlerke vir Jason. Photograph courtesy http://www.colourbox.com

THE DEVASTATION AND psychological whirlwind that comes of sudden loss can rip up the threads of one’s established identity and turn everything completely upside-down. Irrevocably. This is the focus in the tender and raw story, Vlerke vir Jason (Wings for Jason) that is this week’s Afrikaans-language radio drama on Radio Sonder Grense. Structurally tight, and simple in its premises, it offers a strong and poignant foray into Coloured stereotypes as it explores a particular kind of madness with directness but also with sensitivity.

Nadine Williams (Leané Valentyn) is a young woman in love. Her child and her husband are her everything, and amid snippets of Lionel Richie love songs sung to one another in the deliriousness of their happiness, theirs is an association which feels complete. But this story begins at the end and it is the flashbacks and dreams she experiences which give meat to the nuances and answer the unanswered.

The place where you first encounter Nadine is not, however, her happy place. The play begins in a municipal prison, where the sergeant (Brendon Daniels) is patronising and humiliating if not downright cruel and “Ma Fay” (June van Merch) an orderly in the women’s section offers the grit and idioms of a particular type of character in the institution. She’s gruff but she’s got soul, she’s frazzled, but there’s a history. It’s a scary place which resonates with echoes and the soundscape portrays it as cold and unforgiving.

What brings Nadine there, weeping and bedraggled, isolated and uncommunicative? The government? The gangsters? The culture in which she has been living all her life? Perhaps. Perhaps all of the above. But it is not what you might assume. While this work deals with stereotypes it has a soul that doesn’t allow a set of circumstances to be reflected one-sidedly.

It’s another tissue quencher – you’ll need a few at different moments in this play – but there are also moments of horror which reflect on the kind of things that the bereaved do, not because they’re insane or criminal, but because their sense of logic, reality and consequences is all broken and blurry with tears.

  • Vlerke vir Jason (Wings for Jason) is written by Janine van der Linde. Directed by Margot Luyt, and featuring technical input by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Simone Benjamin, Brendon Daniels, Marlo Minnaar, Lindy Stander, Leané Valentyn and June van Merch, and debuts on RSG on Thursday April 19 at 8pm, it will be rebroadcast in the radio’s Deurnag programme, on Monday April 23 at 1am. It’s also available on podcast: rsg.co.za
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My mother’s dignity, my society’s shame

Judasbok

BETRAYED as a repository for sins: the Scapegoat.

A BEAUTIFULLY CRAFTED tale of loyalty and values learned and imbibed, Dalene Matthee’s novel Die Judasbok (The Scapegoat) translates with a true sense of Klein Karoo grit into an Afrikaans-language radio drama you won’t forget in a hurry. It’s an extremely sensitive and intelligent radio-adaptation that will haunt you with all the moral decisions you’ve made that you would change if you could. And while its live broadcast was hosted a few weeks ago, this is the kind of work you will want to listen to again and again.

Karel (Dean Balie) and Lillian (Danielle van der Walt) are engaged to be married. They’re on a 1 300km road trip, to visit Karel’s mother, Ou Bet (June van Merch) in Wolwedans, the farm on which Karel grew up. They’re planning to leave the country; it’s a farewell visit. Sounds idyllic? It is, until you take a step back in terms of context. It’s 1982. It’s South Africa. Apartheid is rumbling like a destructive force through society, breaking hearts, confusing beliefs and smashing values in its wake. Andries Treurnicht, a government minister, is in the process of carving out a place in South African politics for the Conservative party. Bad things are happening everywhere.

And, yes, Karel is not white. Lillian is. Technically, their relationship, under the apartheid jurisdiction, is illegal. Ou Bet, whose the general factotum in the house and has raised the farm’s family as best she can, believing herself to be a part of it. She knows that Karel has a “Lillian” in his life, but the two women have not yet met. This roadtrip is infused with the ghosts and memories of Karel’s past, the beauty of the farm in Lillian’s unsullied eyes, and deep, difficult crossroads to encounter and confront for the mom. And there’s the memory of the farm’s dam which too contains mixed understandings of what skin colour means.

Along similar lines to Mark Behr’s Die Reuk van Appels, it’s a play which contemplates the horrors of being ‘different’ in a society that promulgates very specific race and class and gender values. Containing revelations about the past that will make you tremble, it’s a story that wrenches an old woman from her sense of where she fits in, in her everyday world, and one of bravery and beliefs in the face of disbelief.

The first adult novel penned by Matthee in the 1980s, it’s a book which contains all the energy and verve, the rich and complex understanding of an Afrikaans-speaking community who are not white-skinned and where they fit into the society in which they exist. As you listen to the crisp and solid tones and scene changes in this work, so do you melt, under the tough sway of the story’s impact, but also the way in which the environment is conjured by words and references, music and the twittering of birds. It’s a must-hear and a must-have.

  • Die Judasbok (The Scapegoat) is written by Dalene Matthee and adapted for radio by Anton Treurnich. Directed by Eben Cruywagen, it features technical assistance by Ricardo McCarthy is performed by Dean Balie, Susan Beyers, Danielle van der Walt and June van Merch, and debuted on RSG on November 17. It is available through the rsg website as a podcast.
  • 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

Sectional title woes at the seaside

Sea Point

MY suburb my home: Sea Point Mansions is an Afrikaans play which glances at the changing face of the eponymous Cape Town suburb. Photograph courtesy http://www.capetownguy.co.za

SEA POINT. ARGUABLY, still one of Cape Town’s most densely populated suburbs, on the one hand, is a place of paradise with its Atlantic Ocean view. Tucked between the sea and Lion’s Head, a landmark in the mountain range leading to Table Mountain, it’s idyllic to live in. Or is it? It has also, in the last several decades, become the province’s landmark suburb for high rise development, which opens myriads of social doors to property dispute and the kind of grubby values that constitute the complexity of sectional title woes. It is this that comes under the loupe of playwright Annemarie Roodbol in the Afrikaans-language play that debuts on Radio Sonder Grense this Thursday evening: Sea Point Mansions.

It is here that we meet Francois Fick (Johann Nel). He’s an owner in the building, which contains 13 residential flats and six shops. By all accounts, and with passing detail you glean as the work unfolds, the building is one of those magnificent Art Deco examples of architecture, which sits like a succinct poem in the built up landscape of the suburb. It has parquet flooring and a foyer small enough to be repapered with the detritus of wallpaper from someone’s bathroom. The texture of the scenario is captured beautifully.

The characters in the work are constructed so as to reflect on territorial issues as much as they grapple with the melting pot of culture in Sea Point’s flat lands – they’re clichés, but necessary ones. We meet the old Jewish residents – including a pharmacist in one of the shops downstairs – a hip and cool Capetonian, with his characteristic drawl, a gungh-ho and coloured shop-owner, not to forget the Dlaminis in one of the flats, and the Swedish couple, in another.

And then, there’s Dean Roger-Smith (Waldi Schultz), the owner of the building. Given the way in which his shenanigans are described, and the clipped tone of his presence, this chap is one of what may well be considered a Randlord of sorts – a big property owner who has made his wealth on buildings such as Sea Point Mansions, but the gossipy fighting and the sticklers for rules is not quite his cup of tea.

The plot lies around the ways in which rules can be bent – or can they? – in the hurly-burl of social redefinition. It’s 2016 and an ombudsman to deal with sectional title disputes has just been put into legal place. As a play, it unfolds rapidly and with frequent scene changes. There’s a curious use of RSG punts to give you an understanding of the passage of time in the work, but as it ends, you might feel a sense of ho-hum: these kinds of disputes happen all the time: do they really warrant the vehicle of a play?

  • Sea Point Mansions is written by Annemarie Roodbol. Directed by Joanie Combrink and featuring technical production by Cassi Lowers, it is performed by Dean Balie, Vicky Davis, Johann Nel, De Klerk Oelofse, Waldi Schultz, Frieda van Heever, June van Merch and Nigel Vermaas, and it debuts on RSG on Thursday December 21 at 8pm. November 30 and is available on podcast: rsg.co.za.
  • It will be rebroadcast on December 23 at 1am in RSG’s Deurnag It is also available on podcast: www.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