Silence as a presence

2011-09-19 00:00

LONELINESS and longing can be as debilitating as an illness — and it couldn’t be better illustrated than in Janna Ramos-Violante’s stunning two-hander Mein Soldat.

The play begins with a series of ­vignettes showing Irma (Ramos-Violante), an Austrian housewife, preparing meals for two, speaking to an invisible man and even trying to seek comfort in a simple wooden chair. It’s heart-wrenching to watch and we soon learn that her husband has gone to war, fighting for the Germans in WW2.

Into this solitary world falls, quite literally, a young British soldier, Duncan (Clinton Small), who has escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp and is bleeding, hungry and thirsty.

Wary and suspicious, Irma nevertheless agrees to help Duncan, and slowly the pair develop a relationship. This deepens when Irma asks Duncan to read a letter, written in English, and which seems to reveal the death of Irma’s husband, Konrad.

Grieving and lonely, desperate for love and tenderness, these two lost souls reach out to each other — but even while you hope for their happiness, you can’t help wonder if it can last given the backdrop of war and their different backgrounds.

Mein Soldat uses a mix of English and German to show the constraints of language and the ability of humans to communicate in spite of those constraints.

It’s a play with a slow, yet riveting pace, and one in which silence — a heavy stillness — becomes almost another character. By turns funny, poignant and deeply moving, this play was one of my favourites at this year’s festival.


• Mein Soldat will be performed at The Playhouse Loft Theatre in Durban at 8 pm on October 20 and 21 as part of the New Stages Festival. Tickets can be booked at Computicket.

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