God van Chaos

Posted: March 10, 2011 in Festivals, Theatre Review
Tags: , , , ,

All Smiles

Woordfees couldn’t have opened at a more beautiful setting than the open-air amphitheatre at Spier Wine Farm, nor with a more appropriate side-splitting South African comedy!

Translated by Trix Pienaar from the original French, Le Dieu du Carnage, and adapted and directed by Hennie van Greunen into a South African setting, this Afrikaans masterpiece of comedy’s all-star cast consisted of Anna-Mart van der Merwe (one of South Africa’s favourite actresses), Johann Nel (2007 Fleur du Cap winner for his work in Festen), Leon Kruger (Om Soos ‘n Lyk Te Lê), and Martelize Kolver (Die Francois Toerien-show, Die Ryk Weduwee, and KykNet’s popular new improv series, Proesstraat), and was without a doubt a very welcome addition to the Woordfees theatrical program this year.

What do you see?

The set, designed by Leopold Senekal, spoke of the harmony that was expected of the gathering, with a very noticeable black and white patterned decor and a focal point of four Rorschach Ink Blot Test images on the back wall. Nothing of colour stood out, except for some bright yellow flowers notably displayed on a liquor cabinet stage right. Precisely placed books lay on a coffee table, all with the same black and white patterned material. Even the actors wore black,white and grey clothing, all which seemed to blend in with the rest of the furniture and the room as a whole.

Knibbel die Knaagdier

Who would have thought that among slices of carefully baked Clafouti, a prominent organic flower arrangement, a vibrating cell phone and a “marmot” murderer, there would be so little clear-cut ‘black and white’ order left, after what was supposed to have been a cordial meeting between the parents of two young boys?

Well, this was the case when Yvonne, a self-professed believer in social responsibility and an avid art history book lover (Anna-Mart van der Merwe), and her long-suffering husband, Magiel (Johann Nel), who admits to being a bit of a “gomtor”, invites Alan and Annette Le Roux to their house to resolve a brawl that had happened on the playground between their two young sons.  Alan (Leon Kruger), clearly a workaholic and specialist in sarcasm, makes it very obvious that he does not want to be there and, much to the annoyance of his wife, his phone seems to be glued to his ear throughout most of the meeting. Annette (Martelize Kolver) is, again, the complete opposite of her husband: nervous, highly strung and prone to feeling queasy when anxious. It’s the combination of these four distinctly different characters that creates the comedy and the friction that eventually boils up in all of them.

I watched as a very civil get-together slowly turned into a full-scale suburban clash, as each character gradually began to crack and all good manners flew out the window. We can all familiarise ourselves with this type of confrontation and suppressing our anger and frustration, for the sake of being courteous. The humour is well written, fast paced and quick-witted – not an easy feat for any actor, yet they didn’t  lose the required momentum even for one second.

Now, having watched this production, I can understand why Yasmina Reza’s text had won three Tony awards (out of a total of 6 nominations) including the award for Best New Play.  Hennie van Greunen could easily relate to her hilarious view of the absurdities of modern life and was quoted saying:

“When I first read the script, I just knew that the play would work wonderfully in Afrikaans. I have always been fascinated by the masks that people wear, and by the chaos that ensues when those masks start to drop. How deep would we have to dig under our European skins to find the god of carnage? And what happens when he is set free? At the opening of the play at the 2010 ABSA KKNK audiences were so hysterical that the actors had to wait before continuing with the play. And laughing opens up learning and to the truth, according to Ms Reza.”

A must see for all and definitely five stamps of approval in my book!

  1. Werner says:

    Baie goed geskryf. Die vertoning was puik!


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