This review is part of the LitNet | STAND theatre review workshop. The ten participants each submitted a review to the workshop mentors for feedback. The participants reworked their reviews after two rounds of feedback from the mentors.
This is the final version of Alberto Smit’s review.
Jessie, die man en die maan – a production that shines as bright as the moon
Produced by Unusual Bones
Written and directed by Kanya Viljoen
Performed by Carlo Daniels
Stage manager: Amber Fox-Martin
Music by Jannous Aukema
The sound of street hustle. The dimly lit stage is washed in blue. Two lamps. An actor. A windowpane. A chair. A simple story. A man falls in love with a woman. A child is born on a full moon night – according to a superstition, this means trouble. A woman dies at the hands of a man. A son searches for his mother in the moon. Every night. A man’s story of grief. Grief for his wife. Grief for his son. Grief from the realisation of the system that he must face every day.
The moon has been a source of fascination for centuries. We have created myths, stories and superstitions around the light in the night sky. These have been told around fires, on street corners and in theatres. The moon is ever-present in Shakespeare’s A midsummer night’s dream, in folktales of werewolves and vampires, and even in the recent critically acclaimed production Firefly. In these examples and many others, the moon has been closely related to feminine energy and represents wild and magical forces that are outside of our control. Similarly, the moon plays an integral role in Jessie, die man en die maan.
In Jessie, die man en die maan, the moon seems to be an observer watching over these characters and events – the moon watches over as the lovers meet, as a horrible act of violence occurs and as AB grieves the loss of his wife and son. The main character, AB, portrayed by Carlo Daniels, seems to be linked to the moon, as he is the observer of his own story, stuck in a loop that he cannot seem to escape.
There is no working actor more physically capable than multiple Fleur Du Cap Award-winning actor Carlo Daniels. You can’t help but admire his technique as he moves (light on his feet) for an hour straight without the audience losing a single word. His power does not stop there, as he again proves his emotional range. He seamlessly slips between different characters – the man, his wife and their son, Jessie – and emotions. He has the ability to make you giggle at the naivety of young love, and a few moments later rip your heart out with a powerful expression of grief.
I have admired Kanya Viljoen’s work for some time now. She has the ability to create a world out of minimal objects. It is here where her direction shines again. With a sensitive director’s hand, she creates visual images that are both striking and delicate, without distracting from the story at hand – a balancing act that few young directors have mastered.
The minimal but effective set and technical elements draw the focus to the story masterfully told by Daniels, supported by the rest of the team. The two lamps are used to represent different characters. Combined with the minimal lighting design, the lamps (integrated into the lighting design) create images that hold the story and pull the audience in. A special mention must be made of the composer, who never misses a beat. Jannous Aukema has composed theme music for AB that allows you to understand his external environment (police sirens, street hustle, wind blowing) and his internal state (a delicate and minimal arrangement).
Upon leaving the theatre with a scant audience (it is a shame that so few people had the privilege of experiencing the Woordfees opening of this magnificent production), I was reminded of the magic of theatre and its ability to transport one, even without any bells and whistles – just two lamps, a chair, and an actor and director pairing in control of their craft. I can’t remember when last an hour flew by so quickly.
The future of this production is uncertain, as no upcoming performances are scheduled. My hope is that the moon will continue gazing down on these two theatre makers and that we will continue meeting them in dimly lit rooms where they shine brightly among the stars.
Theatre review: First version
Mentor feedback: First version
Theatre review: Second version
Mentor feedback: Final version
Theatre review: Final version