Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: The Sewing Machine starring Sandra Prinsloo at the Baxter Theatre

Going to theatre at the Baxter is always an amazing experience.  There is a vibrancy, life and creativity about theatre.  I so enjoy arriving early, sitting and having a glass of wine and watching the colourful theatre lovers arriving to a night out.

Tonight's treat was in the Golden Arrow Theatre.  It's much smaller than the main theatre and I know that when we are in this smaller breakaway theatre that we are in for a treat because what we are presented with something intimate and dramatic.

We were not disappointed.  The Sewing Machine, performed by Sandra Prinsloo had me laughing, frowning,  crying, smiling and even feeling guilty - an array of emotions.  Sandra Prinsloo portrays an old lady in her 80's who is waiting for someone to come and fetch her sewing machine.  And while she waits she talks to us, the audience, about her life - about moments of joy, anger, tragedy and loneliness. She's hauntingly familiar as anyone's grandmother found in the numerous old age homes found in South Africa.  Special individuals who lived in South Africa during the apartheid era, and now living in a "new" South Africa.  She's endured and experienced so much and many of these experiences are familiar to us as moms - the joy of a new baby, the struggles of dealing with conflict with a child, having to confront the fact that her son has chosen an alternative lifestyle, marital conflict with her conservative husband Tielman, losing a child to a crippling disease, aging and the loneliness that comes with it.  I might have small children but I was drawn into examining my own relationship with my mother, grandmother and even my own children.

Her sewing machine - a Bernina, known as Miss Muffet - is carefully and lovingly cleaned and prepared for it's collection, as we are invited into her life.  And it feels so real, I sat there at times wondering whether she was talking to me.  What a masterful actress! At times it felt surreal, with clever use of recorded voices over the sounds system as we listened to excerpts from her memory.  It felt like we were there with her, remembering. The stage seemed so familiar - like any room in an retirement home - with an old dresser, her Bernina, an old radio.  Even the way the way she dresses is so common amongst our South African aged, the thick stockings, the practical plain shoes, even the skirt-jacket suit - all speaks of an age gone by.

The play won the Nagtegaal Playwright’s Competition award when it first opened in March 2009 and its success was immediate, overwhelming and undisputed. Further accolades include two Fleur du Cap awards - one for Best Performance by an Actress (Prinsloo) and one for Best New South African Script. Since its inception four years ago Die Naaimasjien has traveled throughout the country and has been performed more than 250 times.

It was a masterful performance and a show I would highly recommend.!  I would take a couple of tissues though:)

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