BWW Review: Incomparable THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA Immortalizes South African Wordsmith at Baxter Theatre Centre
VAN WYK: THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA weaves in and out of South African writer Chris Van Wyk's life and thoughts while paying homage to his artistic, political and familial contributions. Combining humor with home truths, I couldn't get enough of this infectious down-to-earth persona that Zane Meas and Christo Davids expertly presented at the Baxter Theatre Centre this month.
THE STORYTELLER OF RIVER LEA opens on Van Wyk in a place of nostalgic purgatory - "somewhere between here and there". This one-man show is taken on by Zane Meas as a tribute to his old friend and the respected actor is nothing short of endearing in his role. There is such an uncomplicated likeability to Meas, not only as a performer but also as his character, that his charm radiates far beyond the fourth wall and even after the well-deserved standing ovation. Having premiered in February of this year, there is almost a sense that Meas hasn't actually presented THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA before or sat learning any lines, as he is so authentic, refreshing and personal throughout.
Christo Davids - a familiar face alongside Meas in 7de Laan - directed and designed the set. Davids and Meas' connection stretches far beyond the television set, and it's clear that these two have an artistic chemistry that works wonders. The entire flow of THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA is natural and enticing, and the set is simple but not boring. The technical additions also work well to enwrap one in Van Wyk's psyche continuously throughout the production.
Written by Meas himself, the lexicon he has used throughout the show is both heavenly and heartbreaking. He has woven Van Wyk's style delicately throughout and created a book his old friend would be proud of. To reaffirm Die Beeld's review of the production, THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA leaves one wanting to get their hands on a Chris Van Wyk novel as soon as possible.
It must lastly be mentioned that Meas is at the height of professionalism as his confidence, composure and character didn't so much as flinch in the first ten minutes of the production when a symphony of three cellphones went off consecutively. THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA is a play presented with such a beautiful veil of reverence that it is disappointing (and, quite frankly, shocking) modern day patrons cannot approach the theatre with the same respect.
My critical eye could not fault this production itself on any front. My heart, however, just wished it was longer. Utterly captivating from the first word to the final spot, THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA is a triumph of South African theatre.
Photo credit: Brett Rubin and Lungelo Mbulwana
VAN WYK: THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA runs at the Baxter Flipside until 29 June at 7.30pm. Ticket prices are R120 from Mondays to Wednesdays, R150 from Thursdays to Saturdays and R100 for scholars, students and for block-bookings of 10 or more. Booking is through Webtickets on 086 111 0005, onlinen at www.webtickets.co.za or at Pick n Pay stores.