Director Christiaan Olwagen is a brave man. He has taken Anton Chekhov’s classic The Seagull and imbued it with a South African feel.
His entities are South Africans, they speak Afrikaans, but they reflect the machinations of Chekov’s characters as they see their lives moving in different directions and without much purpose.
It’s a solemn, profoundly thought-provoking exercise that cleverly communicates the angst of its characters. Unnecessary four letter words are liberally sprinkled throughout the script.
Though the production is modern – it is set on a wine farm in the Cape in the ’90s – the essence of Chekhov’s work is skillfully retained and convincingly conveyed by a superb cast. The actors penetrate deep within the skin of their characters and their pain and suffering engulf the viewer.
Those familiar with the play will identify easily with a family trying bravely to weather a storm of conflict and betrayal. The characters are well defined with each of the actors finding middle ground in their interpretations, a delicate balance in emotive outpourings.
Sandra Prinsloo at her venomous best portrays the vain, self-absorbed theatre diva Irene, the centre of attention whose relationship with her son, Konstant (Albert Pretorius), is fractious.
Poor Konstant. He is the self-doubting, insecure, lovelorn playwright who cannot come to terms with his life. He is in love with the ingenue Nina (Rolanda Marais) but she is not interested.
The woman who loves him is Masha (Cintaine Schutte), a depressing, dope-smoking, alcoholic, but he only has eyes for Nina.
Veteran Afrikaans icon Marius Weyers plays Irene’s ailing and ageing brother Piet, a wheelchair-bound cynic who owns the property on which everyone has gathered.
Gerben Kamper is Dr Eugene, the cheerful philosopher and a witness to the unfolding drama around him that also involves famous writer Boors (Alyzzander Fourie), brash farm manager Elias (Deon Lotz), and his long-suffering wife Paulina (Martelize Kolver), the proud provider of some traditional dishes.
Geon Nel has the thankless role of Simon, an inept, poverty-stricken teacher who pops up without anyone really noticing.
The production holds up a mirror to a society crumbling in the face of change and uncertainty.
Die Seemeeu is a compelling, well-crafted drama that will hold your attention throughout, thanks to its forceful script and exquisite acting. However, it is aimed at a discerning audience.
Cast: Sandra Prinsloo, Marius Weyers, Albert Pretorius, Rolanda Marais, Deon Lotz, Martelize Kolver, Cintaine Schutte, Gerben Kamper, Geon Nel, Alyzzander Fourie
Director: Christiaan Olwagen (English subtitles)
Classification: 16 DIAT LSV