“Was dit nie vir die Nasionale Afrikaanse Teater-inisiatief (NATi) nie, sal Vrystaatse kunstefeesgehore nie vanjaar topgehalte-toneelstukke soos Swerfgoed, Uit die bloute, Half leeg en Monsieur Ibrahim en die blomme van die Koran kon beleef nie. Read More
Amee Lekas’ Die Dans van die Watermeid is an emotionally thrilling and socially charged piece of South African theatre playing on the local folklore of the fabled Willowmore water nymph or water maiden, much in the same vein as the Uniondale spectre. Set in the small Karoo town of Willowmore, this Afrikaans drama conveys a broad narrative which inventively portrays the story of individuals unable to free themselves from troubling memories of their respective pasts, showcasing the many manifestations of both grief and denial. The central themes include racism, rape, sexuality, and social stigma through an inventive mosaic of highly tensive scenes and rousing dialogue building towards a cathartic release of thinly veiled secrets and psychological trauma.
Despite the plots deliberate complexity, it still succeeds in sustaining a good measure of coherency and a surprisingly rich application of a relatively minimalist set design. The most striking set installation was the curtain of chains intended to evoke the visuals of water, and mimic the patter of rain intended to herald the Watermeid, as a harbinger of budding female sexuality in older Griqua and Khoisan folklore.
The Dominee’s stabbing scene particularly channeled a genuine Hitchcockian suspense, and the use of simple set props succeeded in enhancing the dramatic experience. Director Jason Jacobs’ synthesis of Lekas’ writing allowed for a degree of clarity and guidance regarding closer details of the plot, that may have been obscured by the differing vernaculars of the Afrikaans language employed in this performance. One may have also enjoyed seeing the overturned contents of each biscuit tin being scattered across the floor in a hail of coins and grayscale photographs (representative of their memories and secrets being revealed). Jacobs approach to his props frames them as tools for systematic storytelling, and not simple ornamentation.
The diverse cast of acclaimed actors illustrates a noticeable regional consciousness for the plays subject matter and a commitment to authenticity both in speech and appearance. Additionally, it also provided a rich spectrum of the Afrikaans vernacular, and a sobering peek into the lives of some of its speakers.
In my opinion, this realm of theatre touches on a largely untold anthology of South African literature and herein proved to be a performance both moving and didactic.
Die dans van die watermeid, geskryf deur Amee Lekas, speel af in die Karoodorpie Willowmore. Die rol van die kerk, verkragting, verlies en familie is van die temas wat in die storie aan bod kom. Die watermeid (waternimf of meermin) is die mitiese figuur wat tot die dorpie se redding moet kom, want die mense is radeloos en weet nie meer waarheen om hulself te wend om hulp nie. Die hoop is op die watermeid, want sy is op pad …Read More
But there’s always a first time and as we spoke last week on the eve of opening night in Die Dans van die Water Meid, he admitted he had some butterflies in his stomach as he takes up the role of the dominee in the world premiere of this drama.
“I’ve really gotten used to working in front of camera and I haven’t really performed on stage for a while. It calls for an entirely different process – even given the fact that you’re still performing in front of people it is an organic process.
“The director is omnipresent and always there to interpret, so it’s been been totally challenging,” he says.
Die Dans van die Watermeid by Aimee Lekas is a heart-breaking story set against the backdrop of Willowmore in the arid Klein Karoo, where Lekas grew up.
It offers a unique look at the people from the region in a script described as powerful, yet maintaining an inherent simplicity.
A community holds on to its often suffocating superstitions in spite of the strong presence of the church.
The play also addresses social issues such as unemployment and how so many things are swept under the carpet while the church looks on.
The metaphor of the water nymph’s dance reverberates with the promise of some sort of deliverance when the rain comes.
Adams says he played a priest in SABC 2’s Heartlines series more than a decade ago.
“It was indeed very different as the priest was portrayed as a moral and a sensible guy. In this play the dominee harbours a deep, dark secret. The issue at stake is child abuse, where the dominee is shown as complicit.
“So many of us remain silent while our children are being killed or scarred for life by this. It impacts on the fate of this country.”
Lekas’s debut script was chosen for development at the inaugural Teksmark (script market) initiative in Cape Town last year, selected out of 14 entries at a presentation of short extracts and now is being lifted from the page and brought to the stage as a full-scale production, directed by Jason Jacobs
Lekas, 26, a Stellenbosch University Drama graduate, completed the script under the mentorship of acclaimed playwright Saartjie Botha and in the process had the opportunity to delve deeper into the world of the water nymph – a mythical figure who wasn’t only a messenger of a portent, but an integral part of a community’s history.
Lekas explains, “I had the opportunity to create something from my own distress in the hope that people will become aware of the pain of those around them,” she says.
Adams says he is very proud to be part of the production as it’s come full circle.
“I lectured Aimee when I was at Stellenbosch University in 2010-2011 and I saw a budding talent.
“I studied performance in the mid-1990s and what I love to see now is how the young artists of today are so inspirational.
“Some of us, then, were caught up in the angst of things – today more of the younger generation let loose; they are more free; more bold somehow than we were,” says Adams.
Adams adds that while the play is set in Willowmore, “it has a universal theme and can take place anywhere”.
Where does it fit into Adams’s diverse works, I ask. To which he answers: “I am quite a bit of an activist in terms of being against sexual predatory action and am doing my bit here.
“Maybe it’s more therapeutic for some people. Theatre can be healing and I really hope it travels.”
Teksmark was launched in 2016 by Kunste Onbeperk, the company behind the popular annual Klein Karoo National Arts Festival to serve as a platform for writers to submit texts and text ideas for future use.
The initiative is supported by NATi and the Baxter Theatre Centre. The second Teksmark coincides with the run of Die Dans van die Watermeid and will take place at the Baxter today and tomorrow.
“Aimee Lekas has a unique voice,” says Cornelia Faasen, executive director of NATi. “Talking and listening to her at once gave me the sense of an artist who is equally blessed with a beautiful innocence and the wisdom and language ability of someone 1 000 years old, such is her impact as a young writer.”
The rest of the stellar cast includes Rehane Abrahams in the lead role, Elton Landrew, Ephraim Gordon, Gretchen Ramsden and Celeste Matthews-Wannenburgh.
It is produced by Cornelia Faasen and Hugo Theart on behalf of NATi and the Baxter Theatre Centre, with set and costume design by Birrie le Roux, lighting design by Patrick Curtis and sound design by Pierre-Henri Wicomb.
* Die Dans van die Watermeid runs until November 25 in the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio at 8.15pm or 8.30pm, with a Saturday matinee on November 11 at 3pm.
Tickets are R120 and there is an Early Bird R50 Special available for shows up to and including November 11.
Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.co.za or at any Shoprite or Checkers.
For block bookings contact Sharon on 021 680 3962, email email@example.com or Carmen Kearns at 021 680 3993, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org