‘It is horrible to be dying of thirst with water so near,’ laments the Dancer in Eugene O’Neill’s Thirst (directed by Sue Diepeveen). Yes, indeed, residents of Cape Town may well be tempted to answer. In light of our current drought, the Sugar-Daddy Theatre Co.’s adaptation of O’Neill’s 1913 one-act play does seem very timely.
Swing music plays as the audience settles in, firmly establishing the era we now find ourselves in. As in the original, the action takes place aboard a lonely raft drifting somewhere in the North Atlantic. On it, a Dancer (Marlisa Doubell) and a Gentleman (Pope Jerrod) are lolling about, clearly very hot and in the near-final stages of dehydration. Their breathing and movements are laboured, to put it mildly. In the original, the raft supports a third figure: a sailor. Diepeveen’s version has the Dancer and the Gentleman talking to (and about) this sailor, even though there is no third actor on stage. A joint hallucination, then, conjured up by two overtaxed minds.
The characters veer from thin hope to overwhelming despair. The dancer delivers some welcome levity when she offers herself to the invisible sailor in exchange for a drink of water. Despite the dire circumstances their characters are trapped in, the actors manage to elicit a laugh from the audience in one or two places. The aimless, interminable journey drags on until matters take a more urgent turn, when the two desperate characters contemplate fighting the sailor for the water they believe he has stolen from them.
This production presents a pint-sized glimpse into the steadily eroding minds of two poor shipwrecked souls, and will no doubt leave you feeling parched and ready to attack anyone standing between you and a drink once you’ve left the theatre.
Thirst is part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival and can be seen at the Alexander Bar from the 3rd to the 8th of October.