#Woordfees2018: Fragmented memories, fantasies and future fears in ONS.
This year’s Woordfees presented, Ons, a production written by Ben Kruger, directed by Ian Van Der Westhuizen and features familiar actors, Marlo Minnaar and Lise-Marie Richardson, who viewers will remember from the popular KykNet drama, "Sara Se Geheim".
Lise-Marie has previously been involved in quite a few stage productions since 2012 and was fully involved in arts festivals in 2017 namely: Woordfees, KKNK as well as Aardklop. And Marlo Minnaar needs no introduction. In 2017, he was awarded the Fleur De Cap-prize for his solo performance in Eben Venter's romance, "Santa Gamka". He has subsequently been involved with various productions. To name a few: the musical, "Blood Brothers" (Directed by David Kramer) as well as "Balbesit" (Written by Saartjie Botha).
“ONS” revolves around the writer's personal experiences throughout his life with females, love, his parents, his conservative culture and of course being 'artistic' through all of this. The story makes many references to homosexuality, however, this is not an indication that the writer is a member of the LGBTQI community , it is more of an indication that he wishes to express his artistic side but (the conservative Afrikaner) society around him can only explain his behavior as that.
The production has a male and a female character consistently re-enacting situations from their past, present and future. The characters are allegorical, which means that they are representatives for larger "groups" within society. His name is "Man" and hers is "Vrou", depicting that they are representatives for these "stereotypes" and therefore represent the entire group. "Man" means to depict all men on earth and the same with the female. This reminded me (and the actors) of when we were kids playing games like, doctor-doctor and cops & robbers. The contrast was consistently used to confront themes such as man vs woman, innocence vs loss of innocence, love vs hate, intellect vs wisdom, verbal abuse vs physical abuse.
The storyline and their interactions become representatives for real life relationships. Lise-Marie mentions that "Vrou" is not only the depiction of the writer's perspective of women in general, but also in some form, becomes her own interpretation of a female experience.. "Vrou" takes on many roles throughout the play, from being his partner and lover, transforming into the wrath of a mother (as well as that of conservative society) to also being his manipulator and emotional abuser. This production investigates relationships but more importantly, it brings forth the obsession that comes with bitterness, longing and unfulfilled dreams.
The set consists of a jungle gym, a large red box and crumpled paper all over the stage. It is two adults in a deserted playground. The jungle gym is the place where most make-believe games took place for me as a kid, says director, Ian van De Westhuizen. The two characters exemplify and do the same as kids, except they are much older and wiser. The red box consists of all the memories of the male character, which the woman draws upon to intellectually challenge the male character, whereas the male would rather try to challenge the woman physically. The box becomes very prominent as the memories transform into a weapon to blame, belittle and to deal with the unkind experiences from the past.
The crumpled paper all over stage is a beautiful metaphor about how a paper, once crumpled, cannot be flattened or "perfect" again. It is like when innocence is lost, it can't be regained. Once trust is broken, it can't be healed, but there's still beauty in the way that the paper is crumpled, still beauty in the way that it is laid out on the stage with the noise it makes. Yes, their love was imperfect and toxic, but there was still beauty in the way that they loved. It's collateral beauty. The same way the jungle gym isn't perfectly put together, the red box is old and scratched up, the book is worn out, with tears, but it all still holds beauty in its imperfect state. The paper also helped to create depth on stage.
The whole script exists out of short fragmented memories, fantasies and future fears between two individual's that is in a relationship. They do this because they are trying to stay sane in this alternative space where they can't escape from each other. They also try to get a better understanding of what love is and what led up to the way they experience love through revisiting these experiences. You could see this production as a dream, nightmare or even as two people captured underground in a post-apocalyptic world trying to stay sane.