African Gothic at Park Theatre
Though there’s a wintry chill in the air outside, Two Sheds Theatre have conjured a sweltering, volatile atmosphere within Park’s 90-seat auditorium for their restaging of South African Reza de Wet’s African Gothic.
Set in an isolated corner of rural South Africa, the play centres on orphaned siblings Sussie (Janna Fox) and Frikkie (Oliver Gomm), who are barely surviving through a severe drought by trading the vestiges of their departed Boer parents’ farmstead while hoping for the rains to return.
From the first glimpse into their dusty and dilapidated shack, it’s clear the adult pair’s development has been arrested by the tragedy of their sorrowful existence. After waking at sunset, they while away their time with childish and often disturbingly incestuous role-play based on memories from when they were a complete family, while being waited on by native housekeeper Alina (Lesley Ewen). Their uneasy equilibrium is threatened when city lawyer Grové (Adam Ewan) arrives seeking to execute a dead aunt’s will. The world they have created seems destined to be doomed by his judgement, until car trouble throws them a lifeline.
The leads do very well inhabiting de Wet’s script (originally written in Afrikaans) in all its frantically unhinged glory, forcing those watching to accept their twisted corruption of domesticity as fact. This departure is assisted by Nancy Surman’s set: full of tattered edges and asymmetric lines like a vision from a fevered dream. Ewan’s measured incredulity counters the madness well, but it is Ewen’s stoic and almost wordless Alina who steals the show, standing in quiet support of her young charges in spite of their obvious illness.
Though grim and uncomfortable viewing at times, African Gothic offers a most fulfilling theatrical performance by drawing its audience entirely into its world, and so too into the mouth of madness.
African Gothic is on at Park Theatre from 23rd December 2015 until 23rd January 2016, for further information or to book visit here.
Watch a teaser trailer here: