DIRECTOR: DAISY SPENCER
CAST: Rory Booth, Caitlan Kilburn, Mthokosile Zulu
VENUE: The Catalina Theatre
UNTIL: March 16
Bringing the Athol Fugard classic to life on stage makes Boesman and Lena a must-see for pupils and theatre fans alike.
The play, directed by Daisy Spencer, is a snapshot of the lives of Boesman and Lena – two coloured people trapped in their circumstances by apartheid, a tough existence, each other and, to an extent, their inner demons.
The audience spends an evening with the couple as they travel across the mudflats of the Swartkops River near Port Elizabeth (soon after an eviction of a slum by the apartheid government) in search of a new “home”.
During this journey of theirs we learn more about each character in the context of the brokenness apartheid brought into the lives and communities of people of colour, in the context of a malevolent relationship between them, and in the context of their inner struggles, which are further complicated by an addiction to alcohol.
With such varied emotional content covered in one sitting – portraying distress, humour, trepidation, yet hope, too – any cast would have a highly emotional and creatively challenging task ahead of them to pull this production off.
So when, during an interview, Spencer said, “I believe these three actors are right for their roles, and will do an outstanding job”, she really put her head on the block – but it was a risk worth taking.
Rory Booth (Boesman), Caitlan Kilburn (Lena) and Mthokosile Zulu (Outa) have done an excellent job on this one.
Known more for his comedic and musical talents, Booth really gets into the guts of Boesman’s aggressive, twisted character. Sitting in the audience and watching him in such a sadistic role is strange at first, but he portrays Boesman so well that as the play continues you begin to feel him as Boesman.
For example, sometimes when he glares at Lena, you can feel that he wants to hit her; or when he contemplates the constant forced slum clearances/removals and their hard life, there are moments when he stares ahead, deep in thought, and you can almost see that vulnerability peep through and then be torn away by an angry outburst.
While Zulu’s character has very little to say, his portrayal of Outa speaks volumes about this young actor’s talent.
Saving the best for last, Kilburn is an enormously talented actress whose portrayal of Lena was outstanding.
From start to finish you could see Kilburn was into her character, she embodied Lena. From her body movements to her facial expressions to the pain in her eyes as Boesman constantly torments her emotionally, to the joy during a light moment of dance and song while reminiscing at happier times, to bold moments when she dares to challenge Boesman – Kilburn was exceptional.
Such passion, such identification with a character, this brought all aspects of Lena to life, allowing you to appreciate her as a person working through these emotions and not just a victim trapped in wicked cycle of life.
In a previous interview Spencer said she needed to find actors for this production who she thought could handle the emotional burden that comes with playing roles such as these, and who would not be scared “to be pushed to a dark place in order to authenticate their portrayal of these characters”.
Well, I’d venture to say she chose correctly with these three actors and, judging by Friday night’s ovation, I think it’s safe to assume the audience feels the same.
Although primarily staging as a study aid for high school pupils, public performances of Boesman and Lena will also be staged.
• Boesman and Lena: at 11am weekdays for schools, with public performances on Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 6pm. Schools: R45 (one teacher free for every 10 pupils), public: R75 (pensioners R60).
Book at 031 305 6889 or www.strictlytickets.com