During this year’s Graduation weekend, the wider Rhodes University community are in for a rare treat ‒ a mixed-media, multicultural, and many-faceted response to the work of renowned playwright, Reza de Wet.
Drifting features an eclectic mix of senior postgraduate students and professional performers, with choreography by Juanita Finestone-Praeg and Athina Vahla, design by the new head of Design at the Drama Department, Illka Louw and performances by Andrew Buckland and Levern Botha.
Reza de Wet (1952-2012) is known for her magic realist plays such as Drif, Op Dees Aarde and Mirakel which changed the landscape of South African theatre in a way only comparable to Athol Fugard. Drifting is more than just a tribute to the renowned playwright and former Professor of Drama at Rhodes University ‒ it’s “a virtual and physical response to her oeuvre” according to Drama HOD, Prof Andrew Buckland.
As a close friend of the late De Wet, Prof Buckland keenly feels that in creating a show in tribute to her, the intricacies and contradictions of her persona, as an artist and a distinctive personality, should be brought to the fore. In order to establish a better idea of the breadth of De Wet’s work, the Masters students did some intense research into her work and life. The collaborators also worked closely with friends and family such gathering anecdotes and stories about her. Her husband, Lindsay Reardon recorded a monologue from a play by Samuel Beckett which he read to her shortly before her death and her daughter Nina tracked down a radio interview which features friends and colleagues talking about her work.
All proceeds raised from the production will be donated to the Reza De Wet Postgraduate Bursary for Drama Studies, which was launched last year. The funding opportunities for the performing arts at postgrad level are extremely limited and the bursary will provide the means whereby students without financial support, who show talent and commitment, may have the opportunity to study Drama at this level. The University trusts that this incentive will provide inspiration to committed students as well as draw attention to De Wet as an extraordinary role model within the discipline.
Resident director of Ubom! Theatre Company, Rob Murray says that audiences familiar with De Wet’s work will recognise inherent elements and motifs but also allows younger audiences to be introduced to her. “Purists are warned,” he says, “this show does not follow a chronology nor does it dip into each of her plays: it speaks to the various, often contradictory, aspects of her being.” He says they particularly focused on a central theme inherent in her work, of women undergoing a process of transformation. He admits that it was tricky bringing all these different aspects together in one piece, without it becoming a ‘konsert’, fully realising the tendency towards veering towards the indulgent or the sentimental. He says he looks forward to gauging the audience’s response in order to develop it further and possibly stage it elsewhere in South Africa, as they have found that there is a keen interest in the concept.
Like de Wet herself recalled when she visited the theatre for the very first time as a child, you never know what will emerge from behind the curtain ‒ a devil or an angel…
Drifting will be staged on 4 and 6 April at 7pm with student special performance on 9 April also at 7pm. The show is PG rated for language and disturbing scenes. Tickets can be booked at either the Theatre Cafe or in Room 107 of the Drama Department.