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Theatre Review- ‘Die Stoep’

Director: Jonathan Sasha
Playwright: Jonathan Sasha
Cast: Rachardt Mostert, Bianca Heyns, Ethan Januarie, Rodelio Lewis, Chantal Magano Kambrude, Petrus Johannes Majiedt, Jan-Dre van Vuuren, Vernon Sawyers.

Rating: ★★★

Whose voice torments Jantjie (Mostert) as he sits pitifully on his ‘stoep’? Is it the voice of God? Is it his conscience? No, it’s the voice of corruption most foul and soon to be his undoing.

A ‘stoep’ is different things to different people. It is a place of respite from the unforgiving heat for some, or a vantage point for a neighbourhoods’ nosy neighbour to best collect her/his gossip.

DIe stoep pic
Rachardt Mostert as ‘Jantjie’ in Die Stoep. (Image: National Theatre of Namibia)

But for Jonathan Sasha, ‘Die Stoep’ on Erf 8 on Plaaitjiesheuwel, Koës, it is the center stage for dysfunctional families who helplessly try to navigate their way through the tumultuous waters of life but find themselves weighed down by the anchors; alcohol abuse, depression and the philandering Dominee Pieters (Majiedt)  who must have skipped verse in the bible that states “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Sasha’s theatre debut play follows the lives of Jantjie and Sara (Heyns) after the death of their mother. The former is forced to assume the duty of a surrogate mother to her Jantjie, whose arrested development is compounded by his alcoholism and the need to assert his dominance over a household he doesn’t provide for.

Apart from failing to be the ‘man of the house’, Jantjie also fails at being a good father for his teenage son, Boetitjie (Januarie) who lives with his toxic mother, Lucille (Kambrude) who merely uses him as a meal ticket by means of child support. Cue in Sara’s gay best friend, Koba, portrayed by Lewis, and it’s your typical dysfunctional family.

As art attempts to imitate life, Die Stoep not only highlights alcoholism but also highlights depressions, suicide and homophobia. Jantjie’s woeful self-introspection on the stoep is a sight many of us have come to experience at one time or another, no matter the vices or demons we face.

While one may have sought for depth in some of the characters, such as the Dominee and Ouderling Tina (van Vuuren), an aspect that needs to be appreciated is the cast and their ability to embody their characters. Lewis as Koba was the star of the show as he effortlessly quipped back at the homophobic Dominee, much to the delight of the audience. His fun and flirty air make one wish he had more of a leading role instead of merely supporting, but I digress.

Rodelio Lewis and Bianca Heyns as Koba and Sara in Die Stoep. (Image: National Theatre of Namibia)

Unfortunately, while the comical scenes elicited the response from the audience they sought to, and the acting being far better than anticipated from a relatively new cast, the more emotional scenes which aimed at being tearjerkers didn’t quite hit the mark. The flow of the play was coherent and transitions from one scene to the other were good until the suicide scene which seemed to be rushing to a conclusion.

Yes, Jantjie was downtrodden but that struggle and the negativity from the voice in his head did not lay enough of a foundation for one to conclude that he would take his life. Perhaps that was intentional in that in real life we sometimes never fully see one’s suffering until they take the drastic measure of ending their life.

Setting itself apart and redeeming itself where it lacked depth, Sasha’s Die Stoep came with an orchestra that played the soundtrack of the play which was impressive and enhanced the ambience of the play.

If you don’t understand Afrikaans, you will be missing out on a wonderful play, but chin up because if Die Stoep is anything to go by, things can only get better for Sasha in the theatre fraternity.

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