#Woordfees2019: An Endless Longing For Something More in VLUG
In one hour ‘Vlug’ captures the essence of longing and escapism. The sense that what we yearn for the most is often the very thing we run from. The reality of living past one another, believing yourself in love and yet remaining utterly alone. A beautiful, perfectly orchestrated portrayal that has the audience laughing one moment and utterly uncomfortable the next. Directed by Ian van der Westhuizen, the script was originally written by Torben Betts and has been translated and adapted by Lara Hatting. Performed by Lara Hatting and Dean John Smith, produced by Hatting and Van der Westhuizen and supported by Woordfees and Nati (Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater Initiatief).
A man and a woman have inherited a house. A house in the countryside, by the ocean, away from the city and the hectic rush of modern life. This is an escape. An escape from the noise, the pressure, the constant competition and the chaos of their previous lives, and yet the more they escape, the more cracks appear. The more the ocean of emotion crashes against the shores of their marriage and their very sanity. As they move through five chapters or scenes, we see a progression. Initially happy to be there, intending to embrace their new home and trying to convince themselves that they are deeply in love, they soon come to realise that their relationship is empty without the distractions they so hate. The absurdism builds steadily until we are no longer certain whether anything they say is true or whether it is merely a figment of their imaginations. The isolation is indeed maddening.
Dean John Smith (known for Suidooster and with multiple Fiesta nominations) plays the underdog husband. From an underprivileged background, he has fought for all he has and still cannot match the expectations of others. Desperate to heighten his intellectual standing, he turns to history and politics in this self-enforced exile, rejecting every attempt at intimacy or family by his wife. Lara Hatting portraying the character of woman is the one who married beneath herself to a stable and nice man – someone she could rely on and who met her expectations of the good husband. In her loneliness she flees to religion, searching for hope and redirecting her dreams of purpose towards planning a family. Ian van der Westhuizen (director of Ons, Jerry: an Unconventional Hero and Ver’los’) has created a patchwork of overlapping dialogue, stark imagery and moments of side-splitting comedy. Most impressive is the attention to detail and the creative use of the stage to create a feeling of being trapped. A small block of white in black stage and here the actors are stuck for the entire performance as their world becomes smaller and smaller.
The dreamlike set design by van der Westhuizen and Amber Fox Martin, accopmanied by the AV design by Phillip Theron must receive special mention. It grabs attention as you enter: it seems clean, ordered and yet there is an element of chaos in the white tiles scattered along the stage (and cleverly used throughout the show). The use of projections is cleverly done, even connecting the flashes of certain images with flashes of lighting. Using props for multiple purposes seems a strength of this director. With little soldiers becoming glasses and a skull as a fish, the deeper symbolism and the underlying ugliness is firmly established. It was unfortunate that a lighting error occurred during set up for the first performance (something that happens quite often with festivals) and the lighting was not focussed. Even so, the blue and white soft light helped create a dreamlike state which later transforms to a nightmare. Another clever development is in the use of sound, which slowly becomes louder and more disruptive.
The last performance of Vlug at Woordfees will be on the 7th of March 2019, but I am very sure that this will not be the final run. This is a deeply touching narrative, a story that we can all relate to on some level. I left with the niggling feeling that there is more to this poetic text than can be absorbed in one viewing. This is not just another story about some far fetched waiting game, but rather a very real and shocking glimpse at the world we are creating for ourselves. A world in which cities offer distraction from reality, where romantic love is more of an idealistic notion than a connection between people and where rising storms and oceans may soon become our daily challenges. I cannot recommend this production enough!