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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Vermaak | Entertainment > Teater | Theatre > Resensies | Reviews

New play at Baxter takes you into the nostalgic heart of South Africa

Herman Lategan - 2007-01-24

Shirley, Goodness and Mercy
Chris van Wyk's book adapted for the stage and directed by Janice Honeyman
Set design by Patrick Curtis
Costume design by Birrie le Roux
Lighting design by Mannie Manim
With Zane Meas, Chad Abrahams, Ivan Abrahams, Christo Davids, Celeste Matthews, Grant Powell, Andre Samuels, Paul Savage, Bronwyn van Graan, Lee-Ann van Rooi.

Showing until 10 February at the Baxter is a brand new play which provides a rare combination of intelligence and entertainment. It also has a stellar ensemble cast that kept an opening night audience mesmerised for nearly two hours.
Shirley, Goodness and Mercy is the gentle childhood memoir of the author Chris van Wyk. It is the story of Van Wyk’s youth as he was growing up and living in a “coloured” Johannesburg township, Riverlea, in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Heavyweight director Janice Honeyman adapted the book into a play with her signature sense of madcap comedy and nuanced melancholy. “Chris’s book is so delicious, rich and tasty that each bite satisfied me,” she says.
Seasoned actor Zane Meas (Isidingo, 7de Laan, et al) plays the role of the adult Van Wyk and narrates his childhood standing in the background while the play unfolds in powerful vignettes in front of him. Christo Davids (Forgiveness) plays the lead as the young Van Wyk. Davids is currently one of the most versatile young actors in the country and someone who has already earned himself a leading role in the local theatre landscape. Watch this hot talent as he emerges with every successive part into an actor with an emotional range and timbre that is astounding.
One of the most heartbreaking moments in the play is when the young Van Wyk writes a sincere birthday message to his grandmother, played by the delightfully wacky Celeste Matthews (Known Gods). In front of the whole family he asks her to read the message aloud. She refuses, using her weak eyes as an excuse. “Ag please, Grandma,” he persists. His mother (Lee-Ann van Rooi) pulls him aside and tells him that she cannot read.
He nearly bursts into tears, as for the first time he realises how much his grandmother loves him. It is she, who on the days she gets her pension, takes him to a second-hand bookshop to buy some books. Every purchase becomes a ritual as she pretends to read the first page to see if it is suitable for a young boy, while she is too proud to let him know that she cannot read.  
There are so many poignant moments such as this that it is impossible to mention them all. In addition, each and every actor deserves a special mention. A big treat was on opening night when at the end the author appeared on stage with the rest of the cast – to a standing ovation of nearly ten minutes. Indeed, these are the moments that give you gooseflesh … and hope.