Theatre review: Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey.

Posted: August 22, 2011 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

Transforming Chris Barnard’s radio play into a visual performance may have been quite a challenge for the Mechanicals without the added complication that it is their first production in Afrikaans. They pull it off beautifully. 

Lafras Verwey is a civil servant. Externally he appears to be a loser; his colleagues and boss disrespects him and his life seems dull and pointless. However, internally Lafras is planning the revolution to end all revolutions. He has created a secret world that shakes and shimmers with marvelous ideas of how to uplift the suppressed masses. There’s surely a Lafras in many people. Lafras the frustrated and downtrodden; a man who has given up the real world for this magnificent and imaginary world of heroism where anything is possible.  Henry David Thoreau’s comment, ‘most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them’, aptly describe Lafras’ external landscape. He is pushed to the edge when he starts blurring the line between fantasy and reality. 

Albert Maritz’s direction of Chris Barnard’s powerful and poetic words is subtle yet confident. The light and sound effects add, and create, more drama. The play is a blend of surrealism and realism and it has a strong Orwellian feel to it. Written in 1971, its message of suppression, survival and escapism is surely still as relevant today as it was back then.

Carel Nel’s performance as the tormented Lafras is spellbinding. He becomes Lafras and he has clearly immersed himself completely into this role. His, at times, manic performance is cleverly tempered by Nandi Horak’s Petra.  Horak has a lovely understated acting style and is convincing as Lafras’ dreamgirl and the potential channel between his internal and external life. Her pregnant belly offers dreams of a new and better life for them both.  It is a dark and emotional performance which is seldom punctuated by subtle humor and comic-tragic moments. The supporting players are professional and they appear subtly at just the right moments to add drama and layers and help move the story forward. The stage design is an award-winning piece of work itself.  Old bicycles and wheels and other rusty metallic bits dangle precariously from the ceiling. Bits and pieces of depressingly grey and brown civil servant’s office paraphernalia scattered across the stage add to the moody, surrealistic texture of the production.

Chris Barnard is quite a legend of the Afrikaans writing community. He has more than 18 awards to his name. His writing is often risqué.. Barnard has written an endless string of books, novellas, short stories, and radio and theatre pieces, as well as for television. Who can forget his magical script for the Paljas movie? I would venture a guess that Die Rebellie may well scoop at least one Fleur du Cap theatre award. Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey is the last of The Mechanicals theatre group’s winter repertoire which included A Lie of the Mind and The Real Inspector Hound.

*Tickets are R80 and may be booked through Die Rebellie van Lafras Verwey, Written by Chris Barnard, Directed by Albert Maritz, Starring Carel Nel, Nandi Horak, Stian Bam, Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Wilhelm van der Walt, Roxanne Blaise and De Klerk Oelofse. Lighting  design by Guy De Lancey, Sound and costume design by Tinarie van Wyk Loots, Stage design by Murray Burn and Lienkie Diedericks. at The Intimate Theatre until 3 September, at 20h00. ASTRID STARK reviews

  1. Pieter Swanepoel says:

    Dit is een van die beste Afrikaanse toneelstukke wat ek in jare gesien het.. Carel Nel se spel was puik puik puik.

    Welgedaan Albert Maritz.


  2. […] Cape Times: […]


  3. […] Cape Times: […]


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