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SCENE IT: Savagely witty THE SIN DRINKERS challenges and rewards

Beverley Brommert

 

"A vivid piece of confrontational theatre" best describes this latest two-hander penned by the ever-inventive Louis Viljoen. Its protagonists not only confront each other with an approach ranging from caution to extreme hostility; ultimately they both have to confront their personal demons. 

For good measure, the audience also finds itself confronting - and processing - the uncomfortable issues of culpability, moral judgement and forgiveness raised in the fluent exchanges between these two damaged individuals. The result is highly-charged drama, gripping, challenging and rewarding in equal measure.


As steady but joyless ingestion of alcohol loosens their inhibitions, Frank and Theresa gradually reveal what they share, albeit for different reasons: corrosive guilt incurred through some very unedifying past behaviour, with all its attendant self-disgust.

A grisly suicide has brought them together (that of Frank's daughter, who was Theresa's close friend), but that is only the starting point of their difficult journey through their respective pasts...


Kieran McGregor's pristine, all-white set provides an ironic context for the dark conversation and even darker admissions about to take place within it; a bottle of amber whisky and two tumblers are the only props, and the actors' monochromatic costumes are similarly austere. All the colour is in the dialogue, which is more than colourful.


The latter is handled with enviable aplomb by John Maytham (Frank) and Emma Kotze (Theresa), although to do  justice to Viljoen's savagely witty script, Kotze would do well to speak a little more slowly: some of the choice lines are swallowed and thereby fail to deliver their full impact.


The intimacy of the Baxter's Masambe conduces to complicity between cast members as well as audience, at the same time adding to the challenges of convincing portrayal since there is no place to hide. 


Maytham and Kotze's ensemble is impeccable as they deftly navigate the shift in tone and emotional intensity of their extended conversation.

Initially cool, and parrying questions with counter-questions or evasive replies, they become increasingly agitated as the level of liquor diminishes in their shared bottle and they near the climax of the exchange. Maytham's enraged outburst at this point is all the more shocking by contrast with the rigid control previously exercised.


Watching the evolution of this drama is akin to viewing the cut-and-thrust of a fencing match in which the opponents are equally matched...until the appalling dénouement of this painful quest for redemption.


Existential theatre did not end with Sartre's IN CAMERA: its tradition lives on in this highly intelligent, 21st century exploration of humanity.


THE SIN DRINKERS

Written and directed by Louis Viljoen

Cast: John Maytham and Emma Kotze

Venue: Masambe Theatre at the Baxter, until 11 May 2024

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