Woordfees: Nostalgic theatre in Koöperasiestories

March 8, 2017

Daar is krag in mens se herinneringe, veral as daai herinneringe gekoppel word aan 'n gunsteling televisie storie waar die karakters vir jou so bekend is soos jou eie vriende en familie. So as 'n teater produksie belowe om nuwe lewe aan daai herinneringe te gee dan loop die opwinding hoog. Koöperasiestories is so 'n produksie wat met groot verwagting deur baie 'vriende' gesien word. Met briljante akteurs is daar definitief 'n lag en traan wat jou hart sal raak, maar dit beweeg ongelukkig nie verder as die nostalgie nie, en omdat daar nie verdere ontwikkeling is nie, is dit asof iets van die herrinneringe verlore raak in die namaaksel daarvan. Jy sal verseker nie jou kaartjie geld terugvra nie, maar dit is 'n 'once off' tipe produksie wat as jy dit klaar gesien het, klaar sy doel gedien het in die kortstondige vrolikheid en samesyn. Gaan kuier saam met ou vriende die week nog by die Woordfees, 8 Maart (12:30), 10 Maart (10:00) en 12 Maart (18:30) met besprekings deur Computicket.


Never underestimate the power of nostalgia. It is that power that Koöperasiestories taps into, and to some degree succeeds. Nostalgia as a theatrical angle however is limited. If you don’t modernise at least an element of the show to make it generally appealing to a broader audience, you lose the attention of half when they realise they can’t relate to the characters or the comedy. That half is usually the younger generation, dragged along to a show because mom and dad told them how great this was on television many many years ago.


So if you were a fervent fan of Genis, Veldsman and Mietie in the days of yore, you probably already have your tickets booked and are excited to go visit with old friends. If, however, you have no frame of reference when it comes to Koöperasiestories, then this is probably one you will give a miss.


Era and feel wise, this staging appears to pick up right where the original left off in 1987. It looks to the original television series for a blueprint approach and thus adds nothing to it. Admittedly then, this is not an award winning show when viewed as a whole, but the set design by Nico Scheepers truly gives you the 'stoep-stories' setting of the original and there are some standout performance moments by stellar actors that need to be applauded.


Carel Nel and De Klerk Oelofse impress as Mayor Genis and his assistant Visstertjie respectively, along with the array of other characters they portray. De Klerk Oelofse and Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck also give a masterclass in physical theatre that is met with great delight and laughter by the audience. Chris van Niekerk as Veldsman and Marion Holm as Mietie however feel underutilised, which is a shame when you have performers of their calibre on stage. Especially Marion Holm's portrayal of Oom Botes should have been further explored. That being said, they both did marvelously with the scope they were given


In essence it is a compilation of throwback skits, some more successful comically than others. Even though the original television serious was based on short stories, the play skits seem even shorter or perhaps just feels that way because they are more disconnected than I remember the original to be. In that context, in not fully exploring just one or two stories, the play does not completely unpack the characters and their relation to one another, which then gives the impression of no depth and development. This would leave you a bit stunned as to the sudden 'departure' of one of them without a strong original Koöperasiestories background.


You will certainly find delight in the onstage antics of the actors, which with stronger direction could have been amplified even more to something truly memorable. Enjoyable though it may be, this production won’t sustain in the theatrical archives of people’s memories to the same degree as the original television series. It will be one of those festival shows that was a nice to see and you won’t regard it as a waste of money, but you won’t necessarily go see it again. It is a once off, because much like the Hollywood movie curse, a remake is rarely as powerful as the original.


In the end it largely comes down to directing choices or the absence thereof. One would have wished for Sandra Prinsloo as director to truly take this vintage theatrical experience to a more punch-packing comedy level with depth. It all stops short of tapping into the true storytelling essence of Koöperasiestories. A real revival rather than a copy may have done more justice to the talented cast who act their hearts out. It has its moments in the balance between bouts of laughs and a teary goodbye at the end, and in its nostalgia it remains true to the memory of the original, but perhaps too true.


Based on that, children of the 70s and 80s will flock to see it without a doubt, and will get a laugh or two, before moving on to see what the next show has to offer. So go visit with old friends this week still at the Woordfees on 8 March (12:30), 10 March (10:00) , and 12 March (18:30). Get your tickets at Computicket (R130) or at the door (R150) at Stellenbosch High Shool.


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