There is an intricate, delicate balance between not giving a damn and the emotive need to be seen in Louis Viljoen's masterly crafted new play, Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One. The script reveals a maturity in the restraint shown as the tale unfolds.The quintessential sucker-punch moment is still there, very effectively so, but at no stage does the shock element overpower the nuances of the inner turmoil revealed through the mesmerisingly complex monologue brilliantly performed by Emma Kotze. The direction and staging is cleverly deceptive in its subtlety.
At first you may think that the character —a teacher, effectively left nameless— is merely sharing an existential-crisis rant. Yet, soon after she steps onto the stage you can sense that there is a willingness, almost a carnal need, to reveal her broken, imperfect self in relation to others (most prominently one of her students). This need is apparently triggered by a less-than-pleasant evening spent in the company of her family at her sister's wedding. Her frustration with them, and herself, builds like a tidal wave until you find yourself so engrossed in the family drama that you do not realise that you are about to be very dramatically blindsided by that imminent moment when that tidal wave of inner turmoil comes crashing down. Through this rise-and-fall monologue movement ‘the teacher’ reveals the delicate self-destructive trap that she set for herself, and which now haunts her as much as it ensnared another.
Kotze brings a rebel-like dark vulnerability to her character’s struggle with memory and remorse. This internal conflict ultimately leads to a degree of self-acceptance (as acceptance by others elude her) and a broken sense of peace in the realisation that memories, like ghosts, rarely fade when you keep fighting them.
Viljoen has a great talent for bringing to the forefront shattered souls. He gives them a voice and purpose, and in so doing allows them to step out of the peripheral shadows to —somewhat disturbingly and therefore effectively— hold-up a mirror to society and challenge his audience to look beyond the boundaries of their theatrical-comfort-zone. Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One is no exception, as he shows that he is constantly evolving and improving on his character development and insight as a playwright.
This is a captivating one woman play that lingers, and, one suspects, is most powerful when presented in an intimate space such as Alexander Upstairs.
Clear time in your diary to go see Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One. It will appeal to anyone that appreciates the power of theatre beyond the mainstream, as it dares you to engage with the darker side of life. Book online at www.alexanderbar.co.za to see it before run ends 23 December 2016.