Drawing on real life experiences, while taking inspiration from Henry Scott Holland’s poem, ‘Death is Nothing at All’, Die Vetrek (‘The Departure’) —performed at Youngblood until 20 July— deals with the processing of the loss of a loved-one and carries the message that love conquers all.
The production contextualises this sentiment with the story of a departed mother who tries to connect with her daughter from the other side of the veil of death, to bring her comfort during her time of mourning.
Writer and Director Mari Bortslap’s clear visual finds expression in a modern, minimalist white space, with emotive lighting. Though visually beautiful, the direction and the Youngblood spacial features do not always speak to one another. Parts of Die Vetrek sees the mother and daughter on the floor and out of eyesight if you are not seated in the front two rows or in the elevated back two rows. Jane De Wet’s 'daughter' monologues and Magdalene Minnaars beautiful 'mother' soprano tones however carry the narrative well, even when you can't see every action.
With elements of the story unfolding not only through song, but also with spoken word and dance, Die Vertrek seems to take it’s description as an ‘opera’ in a non traditional sense. One could argue that its format can be placed somewhere between an operetta and a play with music.
Magdalene Minnaar’s performance as the mother is captivating and nuanced. The emotive translation of the themes clearly reflecting her insightful vocal interpretation of the narrative.
The young Jana De Wet adds a further dramatic layer (with elements of dark humour) with her performance as the daughter.
The sorrow and grief motif is also explored by the music composed by Wilken Calitz, as performed by Calitz (violin and guitar) and Corneil Muller (Cello).
All these performances are impressive when viewed separately, but for this reviewer the distinct styles at play do not yet comfortably complement each other in the manner in which expression is given to narrative. However, this being a new production, that required cohesive feeling may yet develop as Die Vetrek further matures in how it theatrical communicates its intention to the audience.
This fresh and modern production can be seen at Youngblood on Bree Street until 20 July, with tickets available online through Quicket.
Photo by Nick Aldridge Photography