Home > Entertainment, Theatre > Ginger Beer – a towering success

Ginger Beer – a towering success

First published in Bolander Lifestyle & Property, June 27 2102

Sprint (Gabriel Buys) confronts his father Charl (Isaac Buys) over a long-concealed guilty secret that has torn their family apart, in Daryn Josè’s powerful contemporary South African drama, Ginger Beer, which opens for its world premiere at The Playhouse Theatre in Somerset West on Friday night at 8pm. The real-life father and son team deliver breath taking performances in a show marked by excellence on stage, in direction, and in the finely crafted storyline.

A chance meeting, a surprise birthday party and an unexpected return home are the apparently unrelated events that result in a night of revelation that change people’s lives forever. This is the simple story-line of Ginger Beer, written and directed by Daryn Josè, which opens at The Playhouse Theatre in Somerset West for its world premiere on Friday evening at 8pm.

The enigmatic, troubled Jessie and joyfully innocent, and slightly ‘slow’ Stokkie (Andre Kershaw) meet by chance at a windmill outside the small Karoo town in which they live. An initially hesitant conversation, leads to an unlikely friendship blossoming, as Jessie warms to the innocent and naïve Stokkie, who inadvertently taps into the wellspring of Jessie’s secret despair and offers her the chance of redemption. Intrigued by the happy-go lucky young boy, the troubled Jessie accepts an invitation to the surprise birthday party Stokkie has arranged that night, for his beloved Ouma Hettie (Molly Möhr).

Stokkie returns home to prepare for the surprise birthday party and encounters his brooding, angry elder brother Sprint (Gabriel Buys), who he hero-worships, despite Sprint’s carelessly disdainful treatment.

But Sprints disdain masks a painful secret, which is the source of his misdirected, brooding anger, and when absentee father Charl (Isaac Buys), arrives home unexpectedly for a visit with the family, the scene is set for a titanic clash between Charl and Sprint, with Ouma desperately trying to hold the family together.

In his debut stage appearance, 16 year old Andre Kershaw brings a compelling simplicity to the role of Stokkie. The portrayal of the character of Stokkie is nuanced, textured and utterly believable, displaying talent and stagecraft one would expect of an actor with years more experience.

Stokkie (Andre Kershaw) comforts Jessie (Ahnastazia Borez) in a harrowing scene of revelation.

Ahnastazia Borez, who has appeared on stage at The Playhouse Theatre in The Spare Room, Are you Being Served? and Habeus Corpus,  imbues the character of Jessie with a depressive cynicism. She is trapped in a self-imposed exile, yet yearns for escape from the oppressive atmosphere engendered by the guilty secret that she harbours, resulting from an event that tore her family part years before. Ahnastazia’s imposing stage presence belies her stature when you meet her face-to-face – it is hard to believe that one so petite can so dominate the stage.

In his debut stage appearance as the brooding, angry Sprint, Gabriel Buys renders a breath-taking performance. His studied characterisation of a young man who harbours a shattering secret, is richly textured and shockingly believable. The rising tension between Sprint and his father, and Sprint’s growing sense of outrage which eventually leads to a devastating confrontation, is managed by Gabriel with consummate skill.

Isaac Buys, who debuted at The Playhouse Theatre recently in Funny Money, brings his burgeoning talent to the role of Charl, a man who deals with the demons of his past, by absenting himself for lengthy periods as long-distance truck driver. If he’s away, he doesn’t have to deal with the dark tensions that conflict his relationship with his two sons. At heart he is a coward, and he masks that cowardice behind an oft scornful façade, but his increasing discomfort emerges  as the confrontation with Sprint looms. A fine performance in a tricky role.

Veteran actor and director Molly Möhr delivers a heart-warming performance as Ouma, who loves her grandsons unreservedly. The latent conflict in the family troubles her, and much of her effort is directed at keeping the peace, with convincingly false gaiety. She shoulders the burden of raising her grandsons in the absence of Charl, with bleak equanimity. Daryn Josè directed Molly Möhr in an award winning performance as Helen Martins in Athol Fugard’s The Road to Mecca thirteen years ago.

Collette Dacre, a veteran with years of professional stage experience with amongst others Joan Brickhill and Louis Burke, beautifully portrays the role of the flighty social butterfly Tannie Miems, whose sunny disposition provides the painful counterpoint to the rising tensions between Charl and Sprint, real-life father and son. Her unconsciously spontaneous cheerfulness in the face of the evidently looming confrontation, is a finely tuned study in insensitivity.

But the towering performances that mark this outstanding play, all rest on the magnificently written story by Daryn Josè, and on her nuanced and considered direction.

Ramsey Lotter’s lighting is as always outstanding, and Daryn Josè’s minimalist set, dominated as it is by the towering windmill, focusses attention on the performances, where it belongs.

Ginger Beer is a compelling story of guilty secrets, of self-imposed emotional exile, of unlikely friendship, of shattering confrontation, and ultimately of magnificent, uplifting redemption. It is a show not to be missed.

Where: The Playhouse Theatre, Lourensford Road, Somerset West.

Bookings: Through Computicket.

Tickets: R60.

Shows dates and times: June 29 8pm (world premiere), June 30 6.30pm, July 4, 5, 6 8pm, July 7 6.30pm.

Categories: Entertainment, Theatre
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