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Ryk Hattingh's new play disappoints

2001-04-25 15:20

Johannesburg - How to Disappear Completely, is the title of one of Radiohead's songs on their album Kid A and would have been a far more appropriate title for Ryk Hattingh's solo play Eensnaar.

Hattingh packed his bags and moved to New Zealand. And it is from there that he wrote the play on commission. Although the play is supposed to be about South African author CL Leipoldt, the departure point and theme of the drama Eensnaar deal with emigration and alienation.

Security and imagination are strange bedfellows David Butler (who plays the role of Hattingh) tells the audience. "The one engorges the other."

Soon after his confession session the main character (who is living "on this island") receives a phone call from South Africa. He has to write something about Leipoldt.

At first he in inclined to refuse the request and is more concerned over his search for a "fresh tongue" he wants to prepare for his guests. The "air is damp here" and "spoils the tongue".

One suspects that the muse was disinclined to waltz with Hattingh and a lack of inspiration - more than anything else - fuelled the commissioned play. What follows is a selection of loose ends he tries to knock together by means of self reflection and a pinch of post modernism. Thank heavens he is aware of the fact that he is "monotonously" hitting a single string.

Hattingh even goes to the extent of exposing the Klein Karoo National Arts Festival in a recitation from Bitterkomix 10. He reads as follows: "You Pasella viewers and KKK festival goers - it's you who are threatening the future of Afrikaans with your never-ending nostalgia for the old South Africa. With your patronising smiles and affected hospitality. With your shit taste and shameless materialism."

His bitterness later on finds a stronger echo when he says: "Rather allow the language (Afrikaans) to die. Scram! Be seated at the right-hand side of Latin."

Hattingh (Butler) occasionally recites a Leipoldt poem or takes the author's Polfyntjies vir the Proe and his Leipoldt's Cape Cooking off the shelf to read from it. The fact that Leipoldt was a Buddhist is underlined by means of a totally unconvincing yoga lesson.

Music, (such as the Radiohead song mentioned before) chattering birds and other sound effects are occasionally relayed over the sound system, however in such a disruptive way that Butler has to compete in order to be heard above it.

One naturally does not expect Hattingh to commemorate a versatile person such as Leipoldt in a poetry reading programme. However his rangings between disjointed ideas is definitely not inspiring theatre. Hattingh is totally correct in saying: "A brick is not a house."

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