Woordfees: The concept of loss brilliantly captured in the poweful Immortal

March 4, 2017

Kan ‘n hartseer verhaal ook mooi wees? In ‘Immortal’ deur Peter Terry, met regie deur Chris Weare, is dit definitief die geval. Die mooi skuil in die vertelling van die hoop en hartseer van ‘n jong meisie wat probeer sin maak van die tragedie van die lewe. Nadat sy van haar familie geskei is, in lewe en dood, as gevolg van ‘n treinongeluk, neem sy jou op haar reis van verwondering en verwarring soos sy probeer sin maak van alles en die klaarblyklike afwesigheid (of dalk ongeinteresseerdheid) van God. ‘n Sterk stuk ondersoekende teater wat jou aan die hart gryp. Dit is werklik die moeite werd om dit deel te maak van jou feesprogram! Daar is slegs twee Woordfees vertonings oor: 4 Maart (10:00) en 5 Maart (16:00).


Peter Terry’s text is beautifully delicate, nuanced, and jam packed with clever metaphors, powerful imagery and existential divine questions, exquisitely translated to stage by director Chris Weare, with the aid of commanding actress Jenna Dunster.


If this was a Peter Pan inspired story it would be titled ‘Neverland Lost’, because that moment when you realise that the ‘child’ you see on stage in front of you lost her childhood with the realisation that people can’t fly, but can very much die, is heart wrenchingly powerful. In one moment, not only the physical train but her family train derails and she is left behind to deal with a “mystery too deep to understand”. Where was God when a train carrying the sacred corner stones of His church sent her family to their doom? Was He watching? Was He even there?


“A story about stone, the power of stone”, survivor Hazel Smith takes you through her attempted rationalisation of the events on that fateful day, which shaped her life and the industrial revolution district link between Port Alfred and her home Grahamstown in the early 1900s. As she plots out historic moments, you soon realise that her young life is as much a personal reflection as it is a metaphoric mirror for the historic 1800s transition of her hometown from fighting fit military stronghold to mental asylum, with colonialism resulting in lives lost even in perceived periods of peace.  Like the Tower of Babel, the rushed rising of an empire always signals impending confusion and a fall.


This all being brought to stage in Immortal, a play inspired by the real life events of 22 April 1911, makes it all the more powerful, reflecting on events that day when at 10:20 am the passenger portion of a steal locomotive derailed and dropped into the ravine by the Blaauwkrantz Bridge crossing. Thirty people were killed, but one child miraculously survived, physically unharmed. But is being left orphaned, with your dreams turned into nightmares, really a miracle if you had to lose your family so that a 'future' could be built upon the stone of their immortal spirits? Immortal only to you, but invisible to and so quickly forgotten by everyone else.


Immortal is definitely a  gripping tale, that will grab you by the heart!


When it comes to the finer details of the play, one may be excused for going in thinking that as a festival presentation this one-woman play may be a simplistic staging, but one would be mistaken and left very happily surprised. Every detail of this theatrical experience is absolutely professional and can be transported to any theatre stage in a heartbeat. Every detail has been carefully planned and plotted, from the striking period appropriate costumes, to the imaginative stage design (Andrew Botha) and the emotively explosive lighting (Kieran McGregor) and sound design.


This Oh. Yes. Production is a stunning example of how strong storytelling enhances the power of theatre. A great performance and worth much more than the R80 you will pay at Computicket (of even the R90 at the door) to see it. With only two Woordfees performances left for this production, you simply must make a plan to see it either 4 March (10:00) or 5 March (16:00).   



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