What is friendship if not a decades-long love affair, filled with timeless memories and experiences, that not even dementia and being a recluse can defeat? This is the magical tale iconic South African performers Chris van Niekerk and Vinette Ebrahim bring to the Baxter Theatre stage in their latest moving production, Die Ongelooflike Reis van Max en Lola.
Written by Ebrahim and Hugo Taljaard, who also directs, this dramedy introduces us to 80-year-old Max who is gay and white, and Lola, a 79-year-old sharp-tongued coloured woman, who have been friends for over 50 years despite the country’s political history. Through a series of unfortunate events, Lola is the only guest who arrives at Max’s birthday party.
Over the course of Max’s celebration for two, set against the simplistic but sweet backdrop of his apartment with walls adorned with posters of some of the most classic movies, including Audrey Hepburn’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which are a hallmark of Max and Lola’s relationship; we discover their colourful history. From escaping abusive marriages and co-raising Lola’s rebellious freedom fighter daughter, to finding themselves at the mercilessness of law enforcement during the Immorality Amendment Act and wading through the uncertainty of Lola’s dementia while attempting to break through Max’s understandable fear of leaving his home after a brutal homophobic attack, this unlikely pair have been on a remarkable journey together.
If, like me, you are more accustomed to seeing Vinette and Chris as their cookie cutter sweet 7de Laan characters, then their stellar performances as Max and Lola will be a welcome surprise. From their awe-inspiring transformation via make-up and physical movements into utterly believable octogenarians to their sensitive, yet wry, reminiscences of their characters’ clandestine apartheid era friendships, these two blew me away and had me aching to know more about their history.
Theirs is a chemistry well developed over years of being co-stars on a national soapie and that trust and familiarity are evident in Chris and Vinette’s portrayal as Max and Lola. It immediately lends an aura of authenticity to this bittersweet tale of love, loss, good times and bad, and made me yearn for my own best friend, wondering if ours would turn into a 50 year old story worth telling.
Die Ongelookflike Reis van Max en Lola is moving, heart-wrenchingly beautiful and dramatically funny. My recommendation? Don’t wait to see this show, which runs at the Baxter Theatre until Saturday 7 February, 2015. Book your tickets, for R 120, NOW at Computicket.
Scene It by Fazielah Williams.