Woordfees: Ons is almal freaks hier

March 5, 2018

’n Jong vrou reis twee eeue gelede van Suid-Afrika na Europa, en vind daar net uitbuiting en vernedering. Hierdie bekende verhaal word aan die gehoor vertel terwyl hulle as ’t ware self ’n simboliese reis onderneem. Die produksie is net geskik vir mense wat sonder moeite trappe kan klim, en geen onder-16’s word toegelaat nie weens taal en naaktheid. Die stuk is tot 10 Maart by die US Woordfees te sien.

 

In Ons is almal freaks hier, written by Ingrid Winterbach and directed by Nicole Holm, the audience gets to undertake a miniaturised version of the journey that took a young woman from the Gamtoos to far-away Europe centuries ago.

 

Lee-Ann van Rooi, clad in the sequined dress of a nightclub singer or cruise ship emcee, narrates the young woman’s well-known story, and Kay Smith enters as the wide-eyed traveller herself. Accompanying her in turn are a sailor, a ship’s captain, and various shady handlers in Europe, all played with gusto by Albert Pretorius. The young woman’s humiliating, dehumanising experience in the ‘civilised world’ is presented in a series of snapshots, one more discomfiting than the next. A marionette draped over a bannister echoes the relationship between the woman and those who pretend to have her best interests at heart.

Once the whole tragic tale has been re-enacted in front of the wandering audience, Van Rooi hands over —with a glare of contempt sure to haunt many an onlooker— to Pretorius, who steps in, suddenly out of character, and jovially thanks Van Rooi for her performance. After the bitter heartache brought to life by Van Rooi’s narration and Smith’s tireless embodiment of the heroine, this new, almost bureaucratic voice is received like the proverbial bucket of ice water to the face. This direction turns out to be a rather brilliant move, especially once Pretorius’s new present-day host character starts trying, with the best intentions, to pronounce unfamiliar indigenous names. His performance in this role is undeniably endearing.

 

Some questions arise about the reason for using the SU Museum as venue. While it’s an interesting idea to guide the audience up and down flights of stairs and have them explore the building, this concept would probably have made more sense had the museum contained more artefacts or installations pertinent to the period and narrative in question. There were also timing problems at the very end, which will by now undoubtedly have been resolved so as to allow the final, moody moments of the piece to reach their full potential.

 

Ons is almal freaks hier can be seen as part of the US Woordfees on the 7th, 8th, and 10th of March. Tickets are available through Computicket or at the door. Please note that this production contains some strong language and nudity.

 

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