Different threads

Many plays proclaim their “universal” themes, but as Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said, nothing is certain except death and taxes.

In writer Rachelle Greeff’s The Sewing Machine, an old woman named Magdaleen (Prinsloo, right) is entering the less-discussed phase after the latter and just before the former. She’s an octogenarian without much to do except reminisce about a hard life and the allies – including her beloved sewing machine – that have helped her survive as long as she has.

This is not an easy piece to watch. Prinsloo is so good at capturing the behavioural nuances of an elderly lady that you sometimes feel the same frustations hearing her talk as you do with an aged relative.

There are long pauses and verbal meanderings that initially seem to go nowhere, though Greeff ties them cleverly together, leaving no loose ends. Also, Magdaleen introduces, abandons and then comes back to a number of different themes.

Ideally, The Sewing Machine will be enjoyed as fine theatre as well as the starting point for conversations about the awareness of whoever Magdaleen represents in each audience member’s family. The potential flip side is that it will inspire guilt, which in turn will inspire a reaction that may not have the sincerity the lonely old person needs.

Either way, this is a work that demands acknowledgement, in emotional or dramatic terms.

today in print