United Players of Vancouver

THE ROAD TO MECCA by Atoll Fugard

Thursday to Sunday at 8.00 p.m. November 17th - December 18th 2000 at Jericho Arts Centre

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.