• Estelle Terblanche

CAVING IN - A journey of echoed memories.

CAVING IN, by Kanya Viljoen, is highly symbolic and poetic piece of work that follows four young UCT students on a journey to research the Karoo Mermaid. The play is performed by ACT Cape Town Students Melanie Tafila, Amber Hossack, Emily Jansen van Rensburg, Ilse van Niekerk and Sage van Niekerk. Other creatives involved in the process were Liese Kuhn, who shot some unbelievable footage that is essential to the play; Andi Colombo, who was in charge of the lighting design; and Celeste Loots, who is the stage manager.

The interwoven narratives of longing, loss, mourning, regret, uncertainty, grief, anger and disbelief create a rhythmic ebb and flow that captures the essence of water so central to the story. The extreme contradictions and contortions that are so inherent in trying to capture a memory or recall an objective truth is illustrated through the nuanced retellings of each character. These stories echo each other in that they each follow the same narrative structure, but are distorted through the mere act of repetition. It is difficult to know which version, if any, is truth and which is a personal attempt to make sense of something outside of the character’s understanding.

The stage is the perfect space in which to deal with this delicate part of our daily lives and existence: our memories and how we try to hold on to them. The complex use of language, projection, filmography, mirrors and lighting are beautifully combined to place us in a dreamlike and mythical space, similar to the one in which the characters found themselves – the caves of the Karoo. The actors have created wonderfully contrasting characters and manage to take the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotion, lightened at key sections with the use of subtle verbal humour and well-timed comic delivery of deeply touching dialogue. Well-performed and clearly well-directed.

Kanya’s link to ACT Cape Town started during her final year, when she was contacted by Nicola Hanekom, one of the ACT coaches, to stage manage one of her plays. During that time, they discussed the joys of creating your own work, of writing and directing. The process was a starting point and at the beginning of this year she was contacted by the school and offered the chance to write and direct for the final year students. From day one, Kanya worked intimately with the group, creating the play through a workshop process. They rehearsed over a six-week period. She spent about twelve hours a week in rehearsal, which included vocal work, physical work, emotional recollection and technical stage training. ACT is primarily a film school and part of the process involved the development of the actors on stage. This was a unique opportunity to not only focus on the product itself, but also create a space for development and learning. The actors truly took this on board and it shows in their clear diction and claiming of the stage.

In many ways the most important player within the script is the set, which includes a mirror and projection. These elements are important in countless ways, as they capture and reflect the characters themselves, the lights and shadows and the memories that are so different for each speaker. The film speaks of the Karoo and the vast space, strongly contrasted by the confines of the stage and the small screen on which the footage plays. The mirror once again creates an illusion of space, while simultaneously reflecting the characters to themselves and drawing the audience into the play. In their reflection, the audience becomes a player and is watching themselves watching the play. These images may have many layered meanings, and I believe that there is no exclusively correct interpretation, but rather that we should leave with multiple possibilities running in repeat through our minds – in a similar manner to the memories repeated throughout the play.

Kanya hopes to continue developing this production, which she believes has many other interpretive options. The landscape of the Karoo with its strong connection to water is one that intrigues her. I hope the future present her with the opportunity and that the play can find more platforms in which it can grow and adapt. The production is on from the 20th to the 23rd of September at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective in Observatory, Cape Town. Tickets range from R50 to R70. Email bookings: cavingintheplay@gmail.com or website: www.theatrearts.co.za

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