A Stellar Production!
by Jane Penistan
With The Road to Mecca, the United Players again have a stellar
production. This play by South African writer Athol Fugard explores age old
conflicts between young and old. rural and urban and, more contemporarily,
English and Afrikaner.
Isolated in an arid and uncomprehending community, the artist strives for
the realization of dreams. The play tells a fragment of the story of the
eccentric Afrikaner, Helen Martins, who inherited her parents' house in a
small town in the Karoo district of South Africa.
Here, she decorates the interior walls with crushed glass set into brightly
coloured paint. In the yard, she constructs sculptures. The local villagers
are suspicious of her work and of her way of life, and she herself begins
to shun the company of her neighbours.
The set designer, Darren W. Hales, has presented an interior with
many small areas, flanked by glittering side panels, with a back drop of
a railed stoop; and beyond it, the yard with Miss Helen's sculptures, seen
in silhouette. Mr Hales also designed the brilliant atmospheric lighting
which contributed much to the changing moods of the play.
Beautifully constructed and written, this work demands understanding from
its director and actors. Kim Seary and her cast achieve humanity and
compassion in their interpretation, while defining each character with its
own strengths and weaknesses.
The three actors play together well. Joan Bryans as Miss Helen, is
the centre of the play. She has the wisdom of age and the poise of the inner
strength which the role demands. Though she appears to be confused at times
by the conflicting advice thrust on her by her friends, this woman has seen
her own way to her Mecca.
In contrast, the city bred, young and temperamentally mercurial Elsa (Bonnie
Lee Bouman) is restless and insecure. Basically kind and caring, she
is so bound up in her own troublesome situation that she is unable to give
Miss Helen the comfort which she has ostensibly come to give her friend.
It is Helen, with her maturity, wisdom and compassion who helps Elsa resolve
her problems and give purpose back to her life..
As pastor Martin Byleveld, Patrick Cullen presents us with a misguided
man who is trying to do his best for his friend, but who is unable to understand
that what he thinks is the best of all possible worlds is not the best for
everyone. Ultimately, all find their way.
Through her joy in her work and
her love for people, Helen, as the pastor says,"lights up the world".
That this play is sustained by only three actors is a tribute to both the
skill of the playwright and the talent and dedication of the actors. The
United Players are to be congratulated on their courage in including this
play in this season's repertoire and for the excellence of their presentation.