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Saturday, July 5, 2008


My first show of the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown was, appropriately, a KZN one: Kobus Moolman’s Stone Angeldirected by Clare Mortimer and featuring two of Durban’s finest actresses, Janna Ramos-Violante and Josette Eales.

Kobus Moolman has made his name at the festival before with his first play, Full Circlewhich received critical acclaim. He reaches the same strong standard of drama with Stone Angelwhich was joint winner of the 2007 NLDTF/PANSA Festival of Contemporary New Writing.

It’s about two women. One is living at the time of the Boer war and considered by her family as a freak, because she is allergic to the sun and therefore rarely ventures outside in the daytime. The other is a modern day good-hearted albeit dysfunctional soul who tries to earn a pittance as a car guard but is also battling with an abscess on her foot which is slowly turning gangrenous. One thing the two women have in common is their eyes – clear and all-seeing.

Death, decay, exploitation and manipulation seriously impinge on these inherently trustworthy souls.

Clare Mortimer has done an excellent job in directing this sensitively-written play and Janna Ramos Violante (Poppie) and Josette Eales (Dollie, based on a real character) explore the many levels of the characters to produce two strong-minded women. Iain “Ewok” Robinson provides recorded vocal back-up such as the letter from the British soldier and vehicle noises. Josette Eales is not Afrikaans-speaking but, after working under the tuition of actor Thomie Holtzhausen (a regular personality at the Grahamstown festivals), she has produced an accurate accent.

Stone Angelis a compelling drama reaching across the span of over a century. My poor knowledge of Afrikaans meant I missed much of the storyline from Dolly’s point of view but I could follow enough to believe that this play could be developed still further. Perhaps the introduction of two more characters - the soldier and Poppie’s mother? – Caroline Smart