Solo will break your heart

Originally published in Cue.

The Rhodes University production at the Student Theatre Festival never fails to draw a crowd. Solo,which follows a mother’s journey to retrieve her drowned daughter, opened to a sold-out house.

The directorial debut of master’s student Hannah Lax stars Fleur du Cap-winning Liezl de Kock as the mother, whose anguish at the death of her child is breathtaking.

Lea Vivier, as the daughter, captures all the petulance and wonder of a child. “Die golwe is so groot!” (The waves are so big!) she exclaims, scuttling around the stage in ouma se rok (Granny’s dress). She dodges between lantern-bearing actors representing waves until she is swept up and joins them as part of the ocean. De Kock pushes frantically at the blue fabric of the dress that was once her mother’s but cannot summon her daughter’s frame back into it.

They are balanced neatly against Sandi Dlangalala’s comedic portrayal of the lonely Death, who longs to find someone to love. He reaches out to hug each new arrival to his realm as they stream past. They slip around him, handing over their paper tickets and moving on.

The three collide when De Kock attempts to find her daughter and must first find a way past Death to get to her. “Wanneer gaan ons?” (When are we going?) she whispers repeatedly to her daughter.  “Nou, nou,” (Now, now) is Vivier’s forlorn reply, hanging the audience in limbo alongside them.

While most of the dialogue is in Afrikaans, the story is still accessible to those with no knowledge of the language. The physicality of the piece, from the smooth scene transitions that form part of the action to the large supporting cast who become everything from lost souls to the legs of a giant insect, is skilfully highlighted by the sound design of the piece, led by the rollicking, spacey sounds of Shawn Sankey’s live guitar-playing.

Solo is seamlessly put together and leaves its audience sobbing. Lax masterfully fills the theatre with this surreal and desolate piece.

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