BWW Review: Fugard's STATEMENTS Grips Audiences With Stellar Acting and Powerful Storytelling
Trying to persevere under a law designed to oppress, Athol Fugard's STATEMENTS AFTER AN ARREST UNDER THE IMMORALITY ACT explores the affect on individuals and relationships when personal and emotional freedom is out of your control. The success of this production is evidenced by its five Kanna Award nominations at the KKNK festival, and is now brought to the intimate setting of Fugard's Studio Theatre for local audiences to get lost in.
STATEMENTS, written by Fugard in 1972, puts on display the unthinkable idea that two people were arrested for being in love because of their skin colour. Errol Philander (Marlo Minnaar) and Frieda Joubert (Liezl de Kock) are sharing one of many dimly-lit nights together when they are found, arrested and charged for their "immoral act". The play floats between reality and nightmare and, as someone on the cusp of being born free, this unapologetic production of STATEMENTS hammered home nonsensicality in a way that no history lesson ever has.
De Kock as Frieda was magnetic and has a talent for manipulating her emotions in a subtle yet impactful way. She was wholly believable as the unmarried librarian who exhibited timid onus for the arrest. As my partner noted, there wasn't as much character development with Frieda as there was with Errol. This is a comment on the text rather than De Kock's characterization - as I was so entranced by De Kock on stage that I barely noticed her character's trajectory.
Errol is more intense and open with his emotions. There is the sense Minnaar has truly invested himself in his character and this is strikingly realized in his closing monologue: a poetic surge of heartbreaking statements. Both Minnaar and De Kock have a strong presence on stage that Greg Karvellas has expertly directed. From subtle body language movements to the way the space has been used, Karvellas shows a respectful understanding for one of Fugard's lesser-known love stories. The way he has manipulated surveillance and used photography in this production is also particularly memorable.
Set and lighting design by Wolf Britz was wonderfully inventive and set the audience inside the room where it happened. Combined with Minnaar and De Kock's disregard for the fourth wall, the setting was intimate as well as confrontational; successfully allowing the text to, as Karvellas states, "reach out and touch the very centre of the human condition". What was interesting in STATEMENTS was the feeling that one was at first part of Errol and Frieda's night together - almost peering in like nosy neighbor Mrs Buys - and then being addressed as one of the arresters. You are brought into the action implicitly which makes the intensity of the subject matter felt that more intensely.
STATEMENTS serves as a reminder of the prohibitions of the apartheid-era, yet still speaks widely to modern-day fears when it comes to governmental and even societal regulations. This production is yet another proof of the power of Fugard; where its acting, direction and presentation make it a stand-out as not only a think piece, but a feel piece.
Photo credit: Claude Barnardo
STATEMENTS AFTER AN ARREST UNDER THE IMMORALITY ACT will be performed in The Fugard Studio Theatre on Tuesday to Saturdays at 8pm with a Saturday matinee at 4pm. Tickets from R160 to R220 can be booked through The Fugard Theatre box office on 021 461 4554 or through The Fugard Theatre's website at www.thefugard.com. There is an age advisory of 16 years (there is full nudity throughout).