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Vermaak | Entertainment > Teater | Theatre > Resensies | Reviews

Triptych: A truly remarkable piece of writing

Anton Krueger - 2007-04-16

by Edna O' Brien
Directed by Sean Mathias
The Market Theatre
6 April - 6 May 2007

This is a very theatrical piece of writing. Edna O'Brien is conscious of the mechanics of how theatre works: character development, entrances and exits, pacing. It is, moreover, the story of an actress, and intertextual references abound – about directors, writing and performance. In this sense it is a metatext, aware of its positioning as a piece of dramatic writing.

This might make it sound like a rather ponderous, abstract description, but there's also a strong narrative drive to the script and the action remains taut throughout. It's essentially the story of infidelity; of a wife's responses to her husband's philandering. The character played by Terry Norton provides the central panel to the triptych, and the side panels of her daughter (Cody Caprari) and the mistress (Dorothy Ann Gould) unfold on either side of her, threatening either to close in on her or to unhinge before the play is over. It's a truly remarkable piece of writing, seamlessly weaving together these three lives and their various obsessions with an absent male character.

The play runs the risk of melodrama, and I suspect one of the main difficulties director Sean Mathias would have faced was knowing when to temper the fraught emotions of the characters and when to give them free rein. Mathias delivered a superb Antigone two years ago, and here he doesn't disappoint. It seems that he invariably brings a sense of sophistication and panache to his productions. (I sat in front of him on the night and noticed that initially he had to cue the laughter to let the audience know that it was acceptable to smile during what can also be an intensely emotionally draining piece.)

Terry Norton is absolutely brilliant as the protagonist, and every nuanced line is delivered with an impeccable sense of timing and purpose. She's in complete control of the stage from beginning to end, revealing the various moods of a bitter wife slowly unravelling as she plays, with equal precision, the accommodating wife, the charming accomplice and the deadly bitch.

The production plays on an intimate stadium stage and I enjoyed watching the faces on the other side of the room, realising again how subjective this experience is. At one end of the front row sat a girl who had a very hard time keeping her eyes open, but a few places to the right of her another sat wide-eyed, her face registering and exaggerating every subtle emotion being played out. I also noticed how easy it is to spot couples sitting in their various uniforms – the goths, the grumpy sophisticates put out at having to sit on the steps, the intellectuals, the gay couple. And there was Malcolm Purkey in the second row, smiling broadly, as well he should, since his theatre is bustling. With three great shows on (besides Triptych, there's also Chris Van Wyk's charming memoir Shirley, Goodness and Mercy and Bobby Rodwell's snide dissection of men, Flipping the Script) The Market is doing well and it looks like it might once again take on its former role as the flagship theatre for Gauteng.