Last Friday I enjoyed another fine ‘Taste, Tweet & Theatre’ experience at the Baxter Theatre. This time, I was privileged enough to be an audience to Ariel Dorfman’s Purgatorio performed on the Flipside stage, following its premiere at the National Arts Festival in  this year.

‘Purgatorio’ is Italian for purgatory. In Roman Catholic theology, to be in ‘purgatory’ is to be in a place inhabited by the souls of sinners who undergo a process of purification for their sins before going to heaven. This riveting tale of two lovers caught up together in limbo between life and the afterlife, is based on the mythological couple Jason and Madea. According to Greek mythology, the hero, Jason, fell in love with the enchantress, Medea, and she bore him two sons. But when Jason betrayed Medea by marrying another woman, she gets revenge on her husband, by murdering their two sons as well as the woman he loved — just as she had slaughtered her brother in the name of love years before.

Wonderfully acted by our own Dawid Minnaar and Terry Norton, their story begins in what seems like a windowless cell at some sort of mental asylum. The scene is set with a clinical single bed, small steel trolley and chair. The male doctor, an apparent aid to the next life, and his female patient, the modern Madea, are in session. They discuss her progress and her need for understanding, forgiveness and redemption for the horrid things she had done in her previous life. We see the woman revisit a time when her life was simple and innocent. To a time of kind winds, pure waters, and hungry kittens, where she was free to dream, laugh and conjure up spells and potions in her head. A time long before she met ‘him’ – the man who would change her entire world.

With the clever aid of multimedia imagery by Kai Lossgott, carefully chosen music for ambience, and the very knife she used to butcher her boys, we experience the vivid violence she vexed on others, as she tells us her story. The scene is then cut another two characters; this time a male prisoner and a female doctor. Here we meet the modern Jason and his aid through purgatory. He is the father of two murdered boys, and husband to a sorceress and one murdered lover. He too is in session, but has made remarkable progress in repenting his past sins, so this will be his last. If he successfully completes this one last set of tasks / tests by his aid, he may leave through the door. But what lies beyond it? A new life? A fresh start? Or just another task for him to complete before he is free?

From the simply and intelligently lit and designed set, thanks to Leopold Senekal and Patrick Curtis, to the exquisite acting by Terry and Dawid, Clare Stopford’s directing handiwork is clearly evident throughout the show. An intense, soul-stirring must-see for all serious theatre goers. “Hell hath no fury lika a woman scorned.” A definite four stamps from me!


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