WORK | Plays and Prose
Stage Play | Two Acts | English | Musical Comedy Drama
Winner of the Beeld Award for Best Play of the Year
Workshopped over 8 weeks, 'Jutro' [pronounced 'yoo-tro'] is the Polish word for 'tomorrow' and the play is about the human capacity for hope in challenging situations. Mina (Keren Tahor) is a Jewish cabaret singer in a rundown Warsaw nightclub. She dreams of a better existence, of fame and a career in America, but the onset of war has made this desire more a fantasy than an ambition. The only person prepared to share her hopes and indulge in her delusions is Janusz (James Cuningham), the club's resident barman and, we will later realise, a man deeply in love with Mina.
When the club is struck by a bomb - a violent moment that marks the play's opening and sets up its scenario and tone - Mina and Janusz's lives are transformed into a singular fight for survival rather than a quest for fame and fortune: the pair are trapped underground, with only a small manhole through which Janusz must frequently exit to search for food ... and a way out for Mina.
Within their claustrophobic space the pair begin a dance founded on wistfulness in the face of dire threat.
Mina's chances of being rescued begin to diminish just as Janusz's love for her grows, making their situation increasingly untenable. The stakes are soon raised to breaking point and Janusz must decide if Mina is better off sustaining the fantasy or, at the risk of losing her forever, being brought down to earth.
The musical score was created by Dan Selsick, who came on board the project for the run at The Old Mutual Theatre on the Square. With a striking set (designed by Lisa Younger), Jutro provides a theatrical style that has the absurdity of Waiting for Godot and the innocence of Life is Beautiful. ‘Jutro' was nominated for 4 Naledi Awards, including Best Actor, Best Cutting-Edge Production and Best Sound Design, and it won Best Set Design 2008.
The play was originally created in association with Daphne Kuhn of The Old Mutual Theatre on the Square, with sponsorship from the Israeli-South African cultural group, Tararam. ‘Jutro' was devised by the company, based on original short stories by Keren Tahor and Elan Gamaker.
Next Year in Jerusalem
Stage Play | Two Acts | English | Comedy Drama
Shortlisted for the BBC International Radio Play Competition
When Jeanie Shapiro returns home after an absence of more than ten years to attend a Passover dinner, it’s not for reasons of either religious devotion or family love.
A late child and bulwark of opposition to her family’s materialism and Zionism, she must deal principally with her two sisters: Barbara and Sarah. She is closer to the warm but dependent Sarah than she is to bullish matriarch Barbara, but on a night marking both a religious feast and the coming-together of three sisters with secrets and secret grievances, a confrontation is in the offing.
It will become a night of restriction and revelation, and one that will change their lives forever.
Using as its setting the faded glory of religious ceremonies no longer at the forefront of family life, Passing Over deals with the notion of ritual as a device of exclusion rather than congregation. It also deals with how the sanctity of the family environment offers the potential for both emotional abuse and attempts at expression, as damaged people seek ways – through control and feeble attempts at communication – to connect with those whom they love.
Novel | 289pp | English
Shortlisted for the EU Literary Award
Aaron Wolpe, 33, botanist, obsessive, misanthrope and ephebophiliac, is the narrator of Wayward Nature, a love story about decay.
Aaron, fascinated with putrefaction, is working on a PhD that deals with fungi that attack plants the moment they die. As such, he travels to the town of Greyton in South Africa’s Western Cape, a region known for its excellent close-scale variation of topography and climate. However, his decision to do field work here is not entirely coincidental.
For Greyton is also the adopted home of Aaron's first love, Verna Heinrich. Now almost 50, Verna was an older woman to Aaron's virginal former self, and it was in his nascent sexual life that Aaron developed a twisted and co-dependent relationship with rot. Still fixated on the destruction that lopsided relationship caused and curious to see what became of Verna's family, Aaron attempts, against his better judgement, to track her down.
Instead he runs into Katja Groll, 17, Verna's daughter. Katja is ebullient and impulsive, intelligent and short-tempered, and soon joins Aaron on his field research, more out of curiosity for him than for his work.
The two begin an affair. As Katja begins to form an attachment to Aaron, he seeks ways both intellectual and emotional to justify their bond while simultaneously nullifying it. He seeks a way out just as Katja's pull – and the redemption her submission represents – threatens to hold him forever.
Soon the tables are turned, as Aaron begins to do anything to hold on to his prize. Now it is Katja who wants to flee the trap but, like Aaron, she cannot entirely pull herself free of the strange bond they have developed.
When Aaron eventually does run into Verna shortly before his departure from the town, all comes to a head at a climactic barbecue at the Heinrich family home attended by the townsfolk for whom Aaron has spent a week feeling contempt and paranoia.
Aaron narrates the passage of this week in the countryside to Katja's absentee father, ostensibly to make the point that every girl is someone's daughter and that 'there is no place for morality in the presence of decay'…