Big Friendly and I went to last night’s preview and taste and tweet of Doodsnikke at The Baxter. Most times I have to drag Big Friendly along, but when he heard that it was with Anna-Mart and Gys, I couldn’t keep up with his big steps. He loves them and for good reason; they can make a production, especially when they are in the same one. They have got that special thing an acting partnership has. They bring out the sticky stuff in each other. This is exactly what is needed for a Sam Shepard; tons of sticky stuff.
So, Buried Child, translated and transmogrified to a farm outside Kimberly, in Afrikaans and smatterings of English, with sur-titles (of the original play) has the potential to be quite demanding on the suspension of disbelief of an audience, especially someone like me, who knows Buried Child very well. (In fact we recently saw the Mechanicals version at The Little Theatre). And yet, from the moment we walked across the sandy set to sit in seats arranged on three sides of the playing space I ‘had that feeling’. Everyone who lives theatre will know it. It is a creepy, magical, otherworld feeling that introduces the possibility. That’s what good (and great) theatre is all about.
I loved this production. I loved Gys de Villiers, who was shocking to me as an old person. He was in turns powerful, weak, moaning, wheedling, hideous, pathetic, cruel, disgusting and hilarious as Dodge. I adored Anna-Mart van der Merwe as Hannie. She was exquisite, layered, complicated and so powerful. I loved Oscar Petersen as Tilden and Albert Pretorius as Bradley and I thoroughly enjoyed Ivan Abrahams as Pastoor Dewis. I thought that Sartjie Botha’s translation was layered and interesting and she managed to pull off quite an awkward relocation. I loved Patrick Curtis’s set and Birrie le Roux’s costumes and Mannie Manim’s lighting. I think that director Janice Honeyman has given the production the wonderful cohesiveness of an internal world spiraling in on itself.
The only thing that bothered me slightly was the kind of performances the two young actors Travis Snyders (as Vincent) and Thenjiwe Stemela (as Shelley) gave. As Big Friendly cleverly put it, on stage with these other masters they just didn’t seem to have the technique to match. For me it resulted in relaxed bodies and shouting voices.
The thing I loved the most about this production was how compelling it was to watch. There are still images, feelings and thoughts racing through my brain this morning.I was moved and provoked. Â And, as a Sam Shepard loyalist, my feeling is that he would have approved.
When we were driving home last night Big Friendly and I shared some dark secrets of our own. We all have a buried child somewhere in our families.