A mother’s struggle / A mother’s hope in Korreltjie Kop Klong is my Dood.
I expected Korreltjie Kop Klong my Dood to be poetic and touching, which it is, but what caught me off guard was the rawness and contrasting humour that highlights the deeply tragic situation in which the characters are caught. Herschelle Benjamin was inspired by observing the struggle of mothers whose sons were addicted to various substances. These boys went from one rehabilitation program to the next, returning home after each one claiming to have met God and healed just to return to their old habits. The effect of this on the mother was a fascinating topic that he initially used as the basis of a monologue about life in a small town. Since then, Herschelle has grown as a writer and so has the script. Under the nuanced direction of Sandra Temming, the story comes to life with minimal sound, simple yet effective stage design and a powerful cast of ensemble actors. Euodia Samson, Charlene Le Roux, Ann Juries and Jurgen McEwan each bring their own important element to the stage and work together beautifully to create a balanced performance.
This is a story about a mother’s love and how difficult it can become. The play takes place in one day, the day of her son’s release from rehabilitation for drug addiction. A single mother, she finds herself alone in her home in Mitchell’s Plain, waiting for her son to return and hoping that he has recovered. Euodia brings a strong presence to the stage as she swings between the reliable calm of a mother and the haunted fear of an abused woman. It is easy to believe that she has endured intimidation, physical violence, emotional abuse, anger, threats, accusations and more, and yet she is still his mother. Her only support and point of contact is her neighbour, the neighbourhood gossip and a loyal church member. The character of Aunty combines the judgmental quality that is often found within religious communities, the curiosity of a lonely neighbour and the kindness of someone who truly sees the best in people and believes that anyone can be forgiven. Played by Charlene Le Roux, she manages to relieve the tense atmosphere with sharp timing and brilliant comic moments.
Meanwhile, we get to know the Son in two ways. One: through replayed conversations with his mother. And two: through the complex and manipulative relationship, he has with his nurse. She has become so involved with him that she finds herself blocked in and unable to break free from his control and from her own guilt. Ann Juries as the Nurse illustrates the anger and anguish of finding yourself in someone’s power and not knowing how to stop the process. It also serves as a stark reminder of how sex and sexual relationships are used to manipulate the power within a relationship. Jurgen McEwan flows seamlessly from calm calculation to physical violence, an intense performance that successfully captures the erratic behaviour of a drug addict and the bitterness of a man who believes he has been robbed of something. All these conversations make brilliant use of the space and illustrate the distances and disconnect between the characters, showing us a homecoming that is not a moment of reuniting, but rather an awkward and painful journey that creates more problems than it solves. The visual image of a pile of sand is beautiful and also extremely effectively used. Scattering the sand across the stage in a violent and shocking manner is not completely unexpected and yet it is done so abruptly that the audience is caught completely off guard. An interesting choice is the use of silence. Except for the dialogue, the entire 50-minute play takes place with barely any sound. The sound that is used is so soft and haunting, it builds the tension to a breaking point and then disappears as suddenly as it started.
While there are many messages and themes in this production, the most important one is of the matriarch: the woman at the head of the household and the relationship she has with her children. How does the woman affect the child and how does a mother react when her child is caught in a cycle of addiction and becomes a threat to her own wellbeing? This is an extremely important theme to explore, especially in the context of women claiming their own independence within society. How does someone claim this when the person who is hurting you is also your own child? I believe that this script deals with important issues and can spark the debate surrounding drug abuse, abuse towards women within their own homes and issues of sexual harassment and misuse. The balance of power on stage is a brilliant illustration of how abuse can distort communities. It does not aim to preach, but rather to create a dialogue and leave the discussion open for the audience to continue after exiting the theatre.
Korreltjie Kop Klong my Dood is showing at the Artscape Arena as part of the New Voices Programme, which stages new work by new writers. The play is mostly in Afrikaans. It runs until the 20th of October and starts at 8 pm. It may also be selected to show at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown next year. With strong themes, beautiful poetry and striking visuals, I hope it does. In case it does not, go see it this week for only R60 a ticket. Prepare to walk out feeling slightly shell-shocked and perhaps
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