A cerise dress, an army jacket and a wedding gown decorate the dramatically lit stage but prove to be less props than elements of a haunting presence which fills both the play and the life of the protagonist.
Henrietta With Love, Peter Voges’ debut as a playwright (at the age of 79) is an exhibition of real, raw emotion that delves deeply into the life of a grief-stricken woman, her profound loneliness accentuated by her stark solitude on the intimately set stage. The viewer is invited not only into Henrietta’s home, but into her mind.
Henrietta (Lee-Anne van Rooi) revisits her life stories with sweet sentimentality, her descriptions oozing with nostalgia and a subtle sense of longing. The wistful tale of preparations for her daughter Mercia’s wedding is, however, broken up by fits of hysteria, as Henrietta sways on and off topic, slowly progressing to the eventual climax and psychotic break in the drama where all is revealed. The greatly anticipated denouement not only expresses the insanity and deep emotional trauma which Henrietta has been suppressing, but places the viewer in her emotional standpoint. It left tears in my eyes.
The accumulation of loss throughout the play is truly saddening, as the audience relives Henrietta’s shattered life. The confrontation of racial issues, traumatic stress disorder or ‘’troubles of the mind” as she calls it, as well as the sheer volume of emotional turmoil is portrayed flawlessly by Lee-Anne van Rooi, a perfect fit for the role. The play is performed ‘with love’ indeed: with shared, undying and lost love.
Henrietta With Love runs from 8 to 15 August 2015 at the Artscape Arena Theatre, Cape Town.