- SMAARTIES a Abstr(ACT) Productions’ production
- Written & performed by Jannes Eramsus
- Directed & Designed by Quitin Wils
- Language: Afrikaans and English
- Running Time: 60Min
- Venue: Alexander Bar & Café
- Date: 17 – 29 Novemeber 2014
- Time: 21h00
- Tickets: R90 (R80 online) available at alexanderbar.co.za
Squirts of sounds, twitches and exasperation bursts from Erasmus’ veiled face, while the entering audience carefully select a seat to from which they can observe and splash judgment to this stripped human canvas in white boxers and knee high socks.
A half-moon of multicoloured foot lights, folded white hospital bed and a khoki inked backdrop, scribbled with words every newspaper headline story tends to feature. A backdrop of negativity shallows the shadow of our mystery man in this his mad house ‘prison’ cell.
Mr Lotz (Jannes Erasmus) was diagnosed with schizophrenia soon after the horrific death of his parents. Beautifully then the long draping from his still covered face, flooding the stage (see picture above) symbolizing the continuous overflow of troubling thoughts and voices he longs to utter.
Instead of the usual deranged interpretation of madness we are used to, Lotz, clearly young, is endearingand painfully vulnerable, as he shares his story of how he came to be in this place. He never denies what he did, but does show remorse, for his actions were provoked by the deep love for his mother and young sister trying to protect them from his abusive alcoholic father. A continuous longing concern, for his little sister who will grow up without him – alone.
Director Quitin Wils, cleverly uses the foot lights to aid as additional characters, communicating by flashing as Lotz addresses them individually. The light of his sister dim and cowering in the far corner, with his mother dead centre and a lingering presence of his father to the other end. Throughout it is evident that Wils carefully selected the set design and placement of furniture, all of which become multinational, to maintain a minimalist set. Encouraging creativity and the audience to participate in seeing things as something other than it is. Even the subtle videography done by Jaco Janse van Rensburg aids the text and overall visual performance.
My favourite however is the use of the left sock as hand puppet, not because it’s meant to embody the voices in Lotz head, but more for its poetic symbolism. We are conditioned to not say and do certain things – said to be socially and morally inappropriate, but just because you don’t say the wrong things doesn’t mean that your feet don’t bare evidence of where you linger. So then when the sock puppet, so clean and white in appearance, opens its mouth its black, and dusty showing the darkness meant to remain unspoken. It is also the one thing Lotz refuses to give up, they can’t take his sock, like they can’t strip him of his truth.
The text indulges in imagery, repetition, wit and piercing truths. With certain play on words such as Droom (dream) reads Moord(murder) in reverse, Skietzophrinia (shoot/ing) etc. Erasmus’ background in writing poetry serves him well on stage, as words not only convey thoughts and meaning it is meticulously used to provoke emotion. Erasmus’ physical control is impressive, to which Wils needs applause, for choosing to have Erasmus’ body bare. For it allows him to use every muscle, bone and vein to become part of this portrayal of a fractured mind.
SMAARTIES, challenges audiences to re-evaluate what they think they know about mental illnesses, conditions so quickly labeled; Depression, Bi-Polar, Manic, Schizophrenia, Psychotic, Sociopath etc. words associated as monstrous. So easily people are misdiagnosed, and society’s solution is more twisted than the patients themselves. Shove them all in a hole and feed them colourful pills, to manipulate what’s inside and the part of you it kills.
Wils and Erasmus, are a talented and very efficient team, who seem to enjoy tackling subjects others cower to set to stage, but with their own obscure artistic style. A duo worth keeping an eye out for. You can follow them at Abstr(ACT) Productions’ on Facebook, or individually via twitter @QuintinWils @Jannes_Erasmus.
So much more can be said, of SMAARTIES, one can easily understand all the hype it’s received. A MUST SEE!