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Charming Gem of a Play

Anton Krueger reviews The boy who fell from the roof

The boy who fell from the roof
Now showing at the Artscape, Cape Town
Running until 20 August 2006

This is a play about definition. If one wanted to label the show – despite the fact that the text ridicules the possibility of any accurate description in terms of language – then it might be called the most “postmodern” of the shows on this year’s Grahamstown Festival Main Drama programme.

The story is told in a playful, poetic narratorial voice which self-reflexively comments on the processes of constructing itself. The narrator makes up names for the characters as they appear, and sometimes the characters interrupt her and finish her sentences for her. There are also a number of inter-textual references as characters discuss the production of other plays and ways of reinterpreting Shakespeare. In addition to this, a linear timeframe is undermined as the story leaps backwards and forwards into different situations being played out across the expressionistic design. The play also takes a stab at its own ostensible “relevance”, and when talking about South African theatre the boy says that “relevant things get boring”.

Although the play does provide a great number of discussions on the question of sexuality, it never takes itself too seriously. Instead of overburdening the issue of gay identity and sexual self-discovery, the style is child-like, innocent and mischievous. It’s not a “brave play”, or a “provocative production”, but rather a simple story about growing up, told in an enchanting way.

I must admit that I was at first a bit put off by the promotional material presented in the programme, which makes it seem like a terribly serious “issues”-driven production, replete with solemn black and white photographs. But nothing could be further from the truth. By not turning its focus on the usual Sturm und Drang of youth in crisis, Juliet Jenkins has avoided the “heavy”, “deep” connotations so often associated with stories of sexual discovery. She has, instead, crafted a light and very amusing tale.

Three of the texts on the Main programme this year have come from development programmes (run by the Baxter, Artscape and Pansa). Judging by the quality of the work being produced, it seems that investing in the process of playmaking has been paying off. Roy Sargeant is to be commended for developing this gem.

(This review was originally published by Cue on 8 July 2006. Used with permission.)





LitNet: 02 August 2006

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