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Sunday, August 20, 2017


(Mpho Osei-Tutu & Ilse Klink as the young lovers)

A harrowing and, yes, scorching yet fascinating tale with an ending that will take your breath away! (Review by Caroline Smart)

Rounding off the 2017 Playhouse Women’s Arts Festival theatre component was the brilliant Scorched directed by Jade Bowers – a harrowing and, yes, scorching yet fascinating tale with an ending that will take your breath away!

Written by Lebanese-Canadian playwright Wajdi Mouawad and translated by Linda Gaboriau, Scorched is very powerful and thought-provoking and makes for excellent theatre.

Narwal Marwan dies. Her executor, the fast-talking notary Alphonse, has been given specific instructions. He explains to her children - twins Simon and Janine –their late mother’s last wishes and how she wants to be buried. She refuses a coffin – she must be laid face down, naked and uncovered, and no tombstone is to be erected or engraved. Each of them is to throw a pail of water over her.

The significance of the three pails is revealed later in this intriguing story.

Alphonse also has three envelopes containing letters - Janine is to give hers to their father and Simon is to give his to their brother - neither of whom they have the slightest knowledge. Once they have delivered these letters and achieved their goal, then they can get a post for their mother and engrave it. They will also be given a final letter.

Simon is a tempestuous young man, an amateur boxer, and for a long while he flatly refuses to get involved in the search, maintaining that his mother never cared for them. Janine, however, is determined to follow Nawal’s instructions and travels to the Middle East to her mother’s war-torn homeland to try to find their father.

Nawal is brilliantly played by Ilse Klink. Falling pregnant out of wedlock by the man she loves, she is ordered to get rid of the baby or leave home. Her grandmother is sympathetic, telling her to be courageous – learn to read, write and think and use this power to rise out of her vulnerable position as a woman. Her baby is born and taken away from her and Nawal is never told of his whereabouts.

Nawal’s story unfolds as the scenario moves backwards and forwards from past to present. The horrors of civil war and torture as well as the revenge-upon-revenge terrors between the militia and the refugees are relayed with graphic descriptions.

A major influence in Nawal’s life is Sawda (Ameera Patel), who promises to help Nawal find the son who was taken from her provided that Nawal teaches her to read and write. Together, they travel the dangerous path of hostility areas, refugee camps and orphanages in their search. Nawal eventually becomes known as The Woman Who Sings.

Klink handles a number of powerful long speeches with just the right level of energy and rage while Patel gives her character the blazing courage and determination it demands.

The rest of the Scorched cast is highly versatile and also put in excellent performances. Often required to double as different characters – some even playing both sexes – are Cherae Halley (Janine), Jaques De Silva (Simon), Mpho Osei-Tutu (Nihad), Bronwyn van Graan (Antoine) and Gopala Davies (Alphonse).

The music is composed by Matthew MacFarlane who performs on stage playing guitar. Apart from providing the backing score, the two guitars are cleverly used to provide sound effects like cellphones, gunshots and construction work.

With excellent lighting design by Oliver Hauser, Nadine Minaar’s set design is fascinating. The stage is strewn with suitcases and a rostrum at the back of the stage features drawers and more suitcases. Suitcases hang from the ceiling and there are metres and metres of linking red ropes which then cover the ground in a muddled disarray. These are a highly effectively representation of the journeys and the searches the play covers, all linked through blood.

Jade Bower’s direction is powerful yet sensitive when needed. Over the last few years, she has certainly been making her name in theatre, winning a number of awards including the Arts & Culture Trust Impact Award, a Standard Bank Silver Ovation Award, a Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre award and she was named one of AfriPOP’s Top Five Female Theatre Makers in South Africa.

She deservedly won this year’s Naledi award for Best Director of a Play. Also winning Naledi awards, and hugely justified, were Ilse Klink (Best Lead Performance in a Play: Female) and Ameera Patel (Best Supporting Actress).

Don’t miss this production if it comes to a theatre near you! – Caroline Smart