Theater review: Woza Andries? and Art.

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
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First published in Sunday Independent 5 December 2010

 The very complex nature of human beings and the thin line between love and hate lies at the heart of TEATERteater’s repertory season featuring Art and Woza Andries?  The two plays showcase a spanking hot cast of actors whose faculties and zeal will leave you gasping for more.

Art was written by French playwright, Yazmina Reza, and it won her the Moliére writing award in 1995.  The play is set in Paris and it revolves around three friends and a painting.    When one of the friends buys a perfectly white painting, with only a few white lines in it, for an obscene amount of money, Pandora’s box is tipped over as the three friends challenge their own beliefs and the nature of their friendship.  Marc, played with a calculated coldness by Wessel Pretorius, is disgusted that his friend of 15 years, Serge, played by Wilhelm van der Walt, can display such bad judgement and taste as to spend a fortune on what Marc considers a worthless canvass.  Even more so, he ponders how he himself can be friends with someone who loves such painting. The third friend Yvan played by Christiaan Olwagen, is wrapped in his own cocoon of misery and decides to sit on the fence when it comes to the painting. He is at war with his stepmother, can barely stand his bride to be, and hates his job as a stationary salesman.  His friendship with Marc and Serge was always his fountain of strength and when they go to war over the painting his world starts disintegrating. 

The play simultaneously tackles the meaning of art and beauty, and the meaning, and fibre of our inter-human relationships.  The painting is the key that unlocks years of pent up frustration, misery and suspicion among the three friends.  They verbally tear at each other’s weak spots, and family members, until they have ripped each other apart.  Years of carefully construed lies are exposed in the process and it is certain that their friendship will never be the same again.  

For Marc and Serge the evening’s events brings them somehow closer to each other as they manage to redefine their friendship.   The eccentric and fragile Yvan falls to pieces and is left to rebuild his life with his shrink.  The dialogue is served up like a wicked game of tennis and all three actors give superb performances of their different characters. Marthinus Basson’s direction is focussed and well-paced.  Art makes for a thoroughly engaging production that will appeal to everyone who has ever had a friend or wondered about the nature of art.      

And then there is Woza Andries?  – an absolutely astounding piece of hardcore theatre that  blasts all conventions and popular beliefs right out of the water. The play is loosely based on Woza Albert! by Percy Mtwa, Mbongeni Ngema and Barney Simon, in the sense that both plays feature the coming of Jesus Christ to South Africa. However, where Woza Albert! is set during the Apartheid struggle and its Zeitgeist, Woza Andries? deals with the current climate in South Africa after Apartheid, and its youth who are left to struggle with the consequences of their predecessors’ actions.   

WOZA ANDRIES directed by Christiaan Olwagen FLTR De Klerk Oelofse and Johan Botha 2 (3)

 

Woza Andries? which was written by Robert Volker, and work-shopped by TEATERteater’s actors with director Christiaan Olwagen, met with critical acclaim at this year’s National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.  Woza Andries? opens with Kelly-Eve Koopman giving a mesmerizing rendition of Bob Dylan’s Times They Are a- Changin’.  Considering our current tenuous political climate, and the general moral regression of our society, Dylan’s words are like salt to our wounds and a powerful introduction to the play’s tone and texture.

Woza Andries? consists of a series of rapid fire vignettes which turns the spotlight on life in contemporary South Africa.   De Klerk Oelofse, Johan Botha and Kelly-Eve Koopman play a variety of characters in the short sketches with much gusto.

It may be wise to mention that religious folk will have to keep in mind that much of the play is satirical in nature and the religious references and portrayal of Jesus’ arrival in South Africa should be seen as such.  The play displays plenty of youthful braveness when dealing with the ultra-sensitive issues. The absurdity of racism is tackled headlong by juxtapositioning white and black murders through a series of shocking sketches whilst the image of a pig is screened behind the stage action. The characters bemoan the fact that there is no white in a rainbow which has ironically become the symbol of our nation.  A white woman is found raped and murdered in the back of her husband’s car.  A black man is dragged behind a car and then fed to lions and so on. It’s an eye for an eye over and over again.  Throughout the sketches I can’t help but think the picture of a pig is inaccurate, as pigs can never be as vengeful and murderous as humans, however the symbolism is clear.

A large part of the play is shown as newsclips with Koopman as the anchorwoman.  De Klerk Oelofse and Johan Botha give brilliant portrayals of the various protagonists of the stories.  As news break of Jesus Christ’s arrival at the airport, a series of South African characters are ‘interviewed’ on how they feel about him coming to our country.  And as may be expected, the reactions vary vastly.  A character based on president Zuma, giggles as he shrieks, “Not only did we get the World Cup but we also get Jesus Christ!” After this comment the news anchorwoman chirps, “Thank you Mr President.  And thank you for contributing to over population.”  And before her words can sink in proper a character that can only be Robert Mugabe offers a beady eye to the interviewer and asks. “Is Jesus Chinese? If he is not, I am not interested’.  A homeless woman typically begs some money from the good lord and so on.   The action rapidly escalates until the anchorwoman interviews the bottoms of the two male actors.  There is a bit of an interesting twist and a violent and vicious scene towards the end that is bound to upset sensitive viewers, but this is the reality of the world that we live in.

Inbetween the shocking sketches the actors also have a lot of fun when they provide much needed comic relief such as when the anchorwoman interrupts a sketch, warning the actors to keep the action relevant as, ‘this is not a Fugard play’.

It is encouraging to see the youth tackle these convoluted issues and they certainly do it with a fresh eye and a fearless attitude.  Both plays will make you break out in a sweat at the levels of honesty and intensity they reach. 

Art and Woza Andries? Is running simultaneously at Cape Town’s Little Theatre, 37 Orange Street, from 24 November- 18 December 2010. 

Visit www.teaterteater.com for more information. To book, call 079 054 6238.

Performance Dates:  24, 30 November/ 2,4,6,8,14,16,18 December 2010.

Time: 8pm, Adults: R80 – Students/Pensioners R40

By Astrid Stark

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