Review: Tee is Afrikaans Poetry in Motion

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Tee at the intimate theatreTee is The Rust Cooperative’s first  fully Afrikaans show, and my fingers are crossed that playwright and  director Philip Rademeyer is planning to do this again and again. The  sheer poetic indulgence of watching Tee has completely renewed my love  for this language with its explosive, clipped words and rasping consonants.  Rademeyer stayed so incredibly faithful to the purity of the language  that the words alone could seduce one, regardless of the content. He  doesn’t skimp on content though. Serious issues, from unwanted pregnancy  to Afrikaner identity to the concept of eternity, come up in the play  and are beautifully discussed in uncommon conversation – uncommon  words in daily use and an uncommon language for the stage.

The story  starts off with a bang as a lone, insecure girl is hurled in through  a door into an empty room with no windows and no exit. As the smoke  settles around her, she tries to find out where she is and how she got  there. Before she has even got her bearings, the door births another  woman into the barren room. Although this second woman is more certain  of herself and definitely much calmer than her insecure friend, both  of them can’t seem to remember much of what happened before the room.

By the time the door brings in a third party, a nervous wreck of a man,  the space between the two female charaters, Eva and Hennie (played by  Cintaine Schutte and Renata Redelinghuys) has become strained to the  point of secrets spontaneously emerging on the surface. Hennie soon  finds out that Eva is carrying potential life in her belly and potential  death in her handbag, and keeps on provoking her with taunts and uncomfortable  questions.

Tee shines a light on the question of male/female relationships, especially  in an often male-dominated culture such as the Afrikaner culture. Basjan  (Carel Nel) is probably the weakest character of the three, but when  his manliness gets challenged he is quick to fall back into oppressive  behaviour that borders on violence, thereby only proving himself to  be weak yet again.

As the tension  rises between the trinity of questioning individuals and the discussions  become heated, there is one thing that snaps them back to their current  strange reality –  an unseen and unknown threat outside. A howling  of ghosts or wolves or wind, and collective faded memories of running  away from “them” and being rescued by a faceless, nameless man.  Rademeyer crafts a beautiful rhythm of tension and release on which  to paint machine-gun poetry in explosive conversations.

Tee is an  unusual treat, especially if you are supportive of the arts in Afrikaans.  If you don’t go see it for the story, which is smartly written and  keeps you in suspense until the last minute, and even if you don’t  go see it for the skills of three uniquely powerful actors, then go  see it for the pure poetry that Rademeyer has created in his mother  tongue.

Marilu Snyders

Tee runs  at the Intimate Theatre 9 to 13 October and 15 to 19 October 2013, in  a double bill with Full Stops on your Face.

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