After a successful run at the 2022 Vrystaat Kunstefees, where it walked away with the best debut production bragging rights, Wessel Pretorius’ new Afrikaans play MY HART IS 'N MUURBAL (EN ANDER GEDAGTES), starring Wynand Kotzé and Wian Taljaard, now takes to the stage at the Baxter Theatre where it is set to entertain Cape Town audiences until 18 March 2023.
MY HARTS IS ‘N MUURBAL is an Afrikaans vignette play that sees two actors play multiple characters across four scenes in a comical way. Each vignette presents a form of social commentary along with the hilarity it offers.
The first scene highlights the personality clashes between a mother and her dead son’s boyfriend while they undertake a road-trip to ‘somewhere’ for closure. Then we see the performers exchange the open road of the Karoo for an apocalyptic setting where we meet the last two gay men on earth as they confront the question of whether one can overlook compatibility for the sake of ‘need’. Thereafter, things get a bit more existential when a man falls on love with a statute who goes in search of his true self. Lastly, a father returns from the dead to make up for lost time with his drag queen son.
Front and centre in this production is humour in its various guises. MY HART IS ‘N MUURBAL is clearly conceived to solicit laughter and it succeeds in this endeavour. The theme of loss (in relation to relationships, love, identity, sexuality, and acceptance) runs through all four scenes, but it only touches the surface of the depths one can explore when it comes to this emotional trigger, especially when doing so through a comedic lens.
The first scene is perhaps a bit too long to actually be a vignette in the true fast-paced sense one associates with this style of theatre. It feels to rather be the start of something that can morph into a fully developed story: it presents a real opportunity to look at loss in a nuanced way that triggers equal parts laughter and tears.
Wynand Kotzé and Wian Taljaard step into multiple personas and give cute and amusing takes on stereotypical characters. The set design gives them the freedom to engage with props and dash over and through chairs in a spirited way, while calling on the audience to use their imagination to fill in the gaps. The minimalist design sets up this show as an easily transferable production with a playful style.
The production has the quintessential Pretorius touch when it comes to well-timed clever and witty lines, but I kept waiting for the heart of the production to reveal itself. MY HART IS ‘N MUURBAL doesn't have the emotional charm that made me watch Pretorius' previous vignette style hit, ‘Klara Maas Se Hart Is Gebreuk, ensomeer: Die vloeistof trilogie’, numerous times. Where the latter grabbed your attention with the layered storytelling so amplified with humour, this latest production feels to be tricking me into believing there's depth in the narrative by overwhelming me with well-packaged quips. Out of the four scenes the love-interest statue story perhaps came closest in triggering the heartfelt moment I was left longing for. However, I can see the appeal of MY HART IS ‘N MUURBAL as a festival production: it is structured like a sitcom-in-snippets, offers a quick laugh, touches on real issues, but doesn't ask you to look too deep inside yourself in unpacking any of it.
While ‘Klara Maas’ is the equivalent of a lost love you fondly reminisce about, MY HART IS ‘N MUURBAL is the quick fling you sometimes need and enjoy, but whose name you won't necessarily remember the next day. Both have a place and a purpose, it all just depends on your emotional needs at the time. If you can and are willing to make that distinction you are well on your way to find the festival style entertainment value that MY HART IS N MUURBAL offers, and walk away satisfied with the conquest.
MY HART IS ‘N MUURBAL runs at the Baxter Theatre Centre’s Golden Arrow Theatre until 18 March 2023, with tickets available online through Webtickets.