Woordfees: Drif, not as hypnotic as it could be

March 12, 2017

Daar is iets baie aanloklik wanneer dit by angs en spanning in 'n goeie drama kom. Sit 'n spookagtige element by en jy het gewoonlik 'n treffer. 'n Treffer is inderdaad wat Reza de Wet se Drif veronderstel is om te wees, maar in die produksie by die Woordfees los die towernaar mens ietwat onbetowerd. Daar is egter steeds goeie spel deur Ira Blanckenberg en Cintaine Schutte as die begaafde susters. Laaste Woordfees vertoning 12 Maart (10:00), met kaartjies by Computicket (R130) of by die deur (R150).

Reza de Wet made a name for herself as a playwright who reveals the hidden through her storytelling. Her plays, specifically Drif, are known as a great challenge for directors and actors alike. So one would be justified in being just a little excited to see Drif as part of any festival programme.

It tells the ghostly story of a hypnotist and his assistant who, on a stormy night, cross shelter-seeking paths with two eccentric sisters, both in their own unique way helping those who confront the raging river to find a resting place, one way or another, at their Inn. As such, the context of the play itself alludes to the emergence of an array of theatrical delights as the story unfolds.

In this latest Woordfees staging of Drif (which translates as 'Ford', where a river may be safely crossed), something about the blurring of the lines between the real and the surreal sadly seems amiss. Although the interaction between the sisters, played by Ira Blanckenberg and Cintaine Schutte, were impressive, André Roothman seemed to merely go through his acting paces, totally unconnected, as the 'magical' Maestro. This was reflected in the absence of true interaction between Roothman and Jana de Wet, playing his assistant Ezmeralda. Their onstage connection seemed a strained. one The unbalanced and disturbing intimacy between the two characters were not properly showcased but rather replaced with very stiff and uncomfortable performances, sans any real chemistry to speak of. A theatrical opportunity missed on the night, in a play that as a ghostly depiction of Stockholm syndrome can pack a dramatic punch.

The set upon entry promises an eerie inclusiveness, with the audience positioned right around the stage. Though the idea that you are watching ghostly spectrals walking amongst the living without them realising it, as they themselves are dealing with restless spirits taken by the ford, loses its appeal halfway through the play. The effect is consumed by the slow tempo of the piece, which drags unnecessarily. Somewhat ironic, if one considers the strong references to the raging river that swallows up the ford as it comes down quickly with force, winds howling, to take indiscriminately those who are foolish enough to cross in the midst of a storm. Ultimately, this all taken into consideration, perhaps it is more the direction choices of Marí Borstlap that are somewhat perplexing. As a complete package, the production felt a bit forced.

Especially at the end of the play, it felt like a sensory blackout, followed by a flooding of sound (perhaps more noise), was used as a Maestro-style trick to forcibly extract the emotional shock reaction from the audience that did not naturally build up throughout the 90 minute play... and 90 minutes should really be more than enough to climatically sweep an audience over the suspense edge without any special effects.

Exiting the venue, the question lingered, "If all the bells and whistles were removed, and this production was merely performed in a blank space, would the treatment of the story (as the ultimate focus of theatre) be enough to sustain the dramatic vision of the playwright?" I found myself left anything but hypnotized.

Yet, walking out, there was an undeniable buzz, with the audience apparently not fazed by or completely unaware of such trickery. In fact they seemed delighted by the 'impact' of the play. Last Woordsfees show for Drif, 12 March (10:00) wity tickets at Computicket (R130) or at the door (R150).


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