16 October, CHB Municipal Theatre, HBAF18 By Sarah Cates
Robyn Paterson has the folk of Central Hawke’s Bay entranced by her sharp, sophisticated performance. Playing to a strong crowd, she has us living and breathing the tragic story of Helene and Gordon, a couple of retirement age, struggling with loss, a changing world, and their search for peace.
Robyn, who skillfully plays both roles, is absolutely mesmerising. Her vocals, posture, facial expressions, movements and attitude, switch between Helene and Gordon at a lightning fast pace. So convincing, it seems there are two people on the minimally laid-out stage.
Ingeniously witty and comedic, we gain a solid 60-minute insight into South African life and the daily pressures experienced by a white farming couple. The play cleverly exemplifies how society shapes personality and behaviour, and in a very short time we develop compassion for both characters – their duologue touches our souls.
Helene, a positive, unyielding woman, is over living a life fuelled by distrust and fear. She feels trapped by the physical bars on her windows and her emotional state of chronic anxiety. Desperate to leave South Africa and start a new life in New Zealand, Helene gradually convinces her husband, Gordon – a melancholic, patriot who is held prisoner by his emotions, to leave South Africa and emigrate to New Zealand.
The story takes us on the emotional roller-coaster ride of emigration. Helene, naturally confident and outgoing, embraces the changes with enthusiasm, while Gordon struggles to find any sense of belonging. The play highlights how personality and past experience places a huge bearing on your ability to cope with and accept change. The saying ‘you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy’ springs to mind – never more true than for Gordon.
The audience mingles with one another after the performance, sharing stories and personal experiences that the play lights upon.
Deeply moving, intelligent, and a real eye opener, I thoroughly recommend people see The South Afreakins. It’s outstanding.
The South Afreakins is on in the Spiegeltent, 8pm tonight (Weds 17 October)