Woman Alone, starring Lee-Ann van Rooi and directed by Christo Davids, is a passionate tale of courage and perseverance like no other that had me hanging on the edge of my seat and holding my breath in anticipation until the very end.
Running at the Baxter Theatre and produced by Jester Productions (‘Bullets over Bishop Lavis’, ‘Second Time Around’, ‘Under the Fig Tree’, ‘TITANIK’ and ‘Sonneblom’), Woman Alone is Davids’s adaption of the novel detailing the true story of South African clinical co-ordinator Dannelene Noach’s wrongful three month imprisonment for daring to shine light on improper practices at the specialised service hospital consortium she worked at in Riyadh.
Beaten and raped repeatedly whilst imprisoned, Noach survived on her faith in her Creator and the goodwill of a friend who was nearly as powerless as she was, before her family and SA authorities could save her.
Talking to a few of the other guests at the opening night on Monday 31 August, 2015, we tried to remember if we’d read about Noach’s heart-breaking story in the news in 2008. None of us could, I’m ashamed to admit, but this is exactly why Davids’s determination to bring it to the public’s attention in play format is so important and admirable.
As an actress, van Rooi is as versatile as they get – her ability to slip into the skin of her characters as seen in 'Rondomskrik', 'Blue Iris' and 'Henrietta, with love', has rightfully earned her multiple awards, including a 2015 Fleur du Cap Award for Best Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Play. From the minute the curtain rises on her bloodied, bruised half-naked body in the Arabian cell to the final hopeful scene where she is back on home soil, van Rooi captivates you with her raw emotion and conviction.
What struck me most about van Rooi during our Spotlight interview is that every thought, every emotion, every word is measured and informed, qualities that shines through with brilliance in her performance. She wasn’t just an actress portraying Noach, she was Noach – albeit for 70 minutes.
For me, this piece struck a personal, emotional chord – my mother, a nursing sister, was offered a position in the UAE years ago as a royal family health attendant. She turned down the job to raise my sister and me in SA, but it’s scary to think that had she accepted it, any number of unfortunate events could have led to her having a similar experience as Dannelene.
This production invokes a belief in self-preservation and female empowerment and must not be missed!
Special mention must be made of the set design by Jody Abrahams which is masterfully done, with sparse props, authentic looking Arabic text on walls and copious amounts of sand striking the right tone and look of an Arabian jail.
Woman Alone runs at the Baxter Theatre until Saturday 19 September, 2015. Tickets are R110 to R120 and are available at Computicket.