I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it ever. Hol is Nicola Hanekom’s one woman tour de force (she wrote it and performs it) directed by Fred Abrahamse, and it opened at Artscape’s Arena Theatre as part of this year’s Artscape’s Season of New Writing.
Now I knew all about this piece; Nicola and I have spoken about it before, but nothing could have prepared me for it, and I was undone by this most brilliant show. Picture this. As you enter the theatre the glaring white perspex box of the set (brilliantly designed by Marcel Meyer) frames a treadmill. The character that Nicola plays, Lisbet, is already on it, walking and running, and drinking water. And that is where she stays, for the next hour. For the next hour she is on that treadmill, running. Running away, running towards thinness, running her thoughts out of her head, running alongside them as they appear to torment her.
I keep saying, I have never seen anything like it, and there is nothing to compare it to. Nicola’s performance is jaw dropping, heart aching, and astounding. She manages to combine fierce technique, unbelievable fitness, perfect timing and an emotional connection for every single moment of this complicated, magnificently written, cerebral, layered, and moving piece. And there are times when it is blisteringly funny. My Afrikaans is ok, and I got mostly everything, but I hate the idea that there were words, phrases or concepts that I missed because the script is so dense. Nonetheless, what I did get moved me out of myself and I sat next to my theatre date with tears literally falling off my face.
Take it from me; in a world where I see good theatre all the time, Hol is special, better, more original, more satisfying, more meaningful, more sad, more horrific, more everything. Nicola is unbelievable. Fred and Marcel have done an extraordinary job with direction and design. I don’t know why there was not an overfull house at the Arena (come on Arena, your bar is so pathetic, there wasn’t even an ice block to be had) but here are the exact dates of performance. 18, 22, 24, 26, 30 November and 2 December. The only excuse you have not to see this is if you do not understand a word of Afrikaans or if you are in a coma. Don’t even try and talk to me about theatre if you don’t go and see this. It defines how I think about things theatrical from now on.
*This amazing photo is by Nellis Rietmann