The Galloway Theatre at the V&A Waterfront consistently unearths poignant stories with a contemporary twist. Both Ella’s Horses and Happy – currently running as a double bill – shine a fresh light on their historical protagonists, revealing an overpoweringly sad, cruel, yet immensely funny spirit.
There are surprising similarities between Hermanus’ eccentric horse fanatic Ella Gordon and the notorious Happy Sindane – who made headlines in 2003 when he alleged that he was a white boy who had been kidnapped by black people. Both were intensely public figures, yet similarly mysterious.
Ella’s Horses is a strange chronicle of the determinedly solitary Scottish émigré, Ella Gordon, and her confidant, Reverend Schaberg. Famed theatre and television actress Deirdre Wolhuter spins a stirring take on Ella’s cantankerous and headstrong philosophical beliefs. Bit by bit she unravels Ella’s inner conflicts, highlighting her emotional motivations in a jarringly feminine manner which belies an otherwise masculine candour. Leonard Moss’ Reverend Schaberg vies for the spotlight, and at times emerges as the victor with his absolute ‘voice of reason’ proverbs.
South Africa has never dealt adequately with its obsession with race. To that end the second production, which details the story of Happy Sindane, is as fascinating as it is tragic. But with this one-man production, we are led through the inevitable poignancy and tragedy via stepping stones of humour. Sindane’s legacy is laced with flickers of Dorian Gray-like narcissism, while it debunks many of the sensationalist myths.
Jarrid Geduld exhibits a quicksilver brilliance as he flips from fact to fiction and from suiwer Afrikaans to rough township lingo. And when he gradually paints his face with all the colours of the national flag, it not only touches a patriotic nerve, but also alludes the controversial Dulux ‘Any Colour You Can Think Of’ campaign which used his face without his permission.
These are stories prone to melodrama, yet with the lightest of touches from his deft dramatic hands, writer and director Charles J. Fourie has conceived an astonishingly confrontational double bill.
Benn van der Westhuizen
Ella’s Horses and Happy runs as a double bill at the Galloway Theatre from 8 to 25 April 2015.