Dirt under the business front

betrayalradio
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.

Lulu in the sky. With spiders.

Jetset
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.

Two men in a sauna

EasterIsland
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.