Jakob by Michael Taylor-Broderick at the National Arts Festival, Makhanda

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Written and directed by Michael Taylor-Broderick
Cast: Bryan Hiles
Production company: Theatresmiths
Venue: Victoria Theatre, National Arts Festival, Makhanda

It is quite by chance that I got to see two shows by Michael Taylor-Broderick on one day, and both proved to be inspiring.

Jakob (the Afrikaans version of Jacob) is about a young boy who cannot cope with bright light. From a young age he chooses to avoid bright light. He even scoops up the early-morning light from the surface of the dam which supplies water to their town. He then buries the light and buckets full of water in an old barn.

Jakob is a fairy tale. It is by no means a realistic story – it may well touch on magical realism, though. Underneath the magic there is an enormous depth of prejudice and hate that shapes the community’s attitude towards the strange boy and his parents.

In a small community one has to fit in, or one is ostracised completely. Those on the edges need to remain there, out of sight, and then they might be safe. But when a catastrophic drought renders the dam dry, the drinkers in the local pub agree that they need a scapegoat.

Those with some understanding of the Old Testament or the Quran would know that Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar when God intervened by providing the world’s first scapegoat. Without the goat, there would have been no Jacob.

Michael Taylor-Broderick’s Jakob takes a rather different twist. Little Jakob is to be sacrificed by the community. Will he be saved by magical intervention? I shall not tell! It is a fairy tale, though. Do go and see it for yourself.


The play seems originally to have been written by Michael Taylor-Broderick as a short story, and was then adapted for the stage by Claire Mortimer.

The direction, and especially lighting design, were done by Taylor-Broderick himself. Since light, or the lack thereof, is so central to the play, it could only have been fun to create all the gadgets for this play.

Taylor-Broderick lectures in lighting. He seems to like playing with lights, unlike his main character.

Bryan Hiles

Bryan Hiles plays a number of characters, but does not play Jakob.

He often acts like Jakob, but still plays older characters miming the boy.

Throughout the play the real boy is absent. His presence is marked by a mannikin sitting on the side of the stage.

Hiles takes on a number of Herman Charles Bosman-like characters, telling a story about an Afrikaans community – in English.

Hiles is good; so, too, is the technical crew.

Jakob is well worth experiencing.

  • Photographs: Izak de Vries
See also:

Jakob by die Drama Factory: ’n resensie

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