The best kept little house in town – or is it?
by Diane de Beer
Production: Tuis, ek’s liefie
Photos: Nardus Engelbrecht
Most modern women would not be willing to leave their careers to become stay-at-home wives. Apart from the financial stress the loss of salary would mean, a loss of independence would simply be unthinkable.
With a fantastic design by Wolf Britz, setting the scene for the ’50s lifestyle, which Cintaine Schutte, playing Judy, has decided to adopt for her and husband Johnny, played by Wessel Pretorius, she manages to create a world in which she stars and has modelled herself into the perfect wife.
And the first half of the play (original text by Laura Wade, translated by Francois Toerien) does exactly that: captures the precision and perfection of this fantasy in all its cheery, coloured splendour.
It also gave costume designer Mariechen Vosloo the chance to have some fun with the ’50s flirty fashions resulting in a terrific look for Schutte. She could easily slip into the style of the obedient and adoring wife with her every movement and imitation of the mindless little woman guarding her home and husband with equal enthusiasm.
Johnny is seemingly happy with this arrangement, but who wouldn’t be when your every desire is anticipated and fulfilled.
Yet life isn’t as dreamy as it is supposed to be and cracks are starting to appear in this milkshake-coloured, painfully designed home. As much as Judy hopes to shape her and hubby’s life, stormy clouds are starting to develop.
Finances are showing signs of failure, and even the cosy relationship so carefully coddled by both in the partnership from the start, is unravelling at the edges. Life is not all it professes to be.
Even their perfectly fitting friends played with energetic enthusiasm by Chrystal-Donna Roberts (Frandi) and Carlo Daniels (Markus) are showing signs of not fulfilling even the friendship expectations. Flaws are appearing all over the place.
And there’s another storm gathering in the shape of Johnny’s boss André (Veronique Jephtas) who it turns out has not lost her head or her heart to Johnny.
It might sound as if there’s a story starting to take shape, but halfway through the play, the laughter is still sadly lacking. Then Judy’s mother, in the person of Amanda Strydom, decides it’s time for some straight talk and she lets rip gloriously. All this silliness about the splendid ’50s, is utter nonsense. Judy wasn’t there, but the mother certainly was. And life was not a bed of roses for mothers and wives.
Freedom wasn’t part of their vocabulary and a career was never an option. Women were there to do their husband’s bidding and creating the perfect home didn’t add meaning to life.
But Judy was fighting for her life and escapism seemed the way out. If she could manage someone else’s life, she could ignore her own and with it, all the problems that seemed to be gathering steam.
This might feel hard core, but unfortunately it’s not to be found in the writing, which is unexpectedly lifeless and monotonous. Perhaps it was the translation, but that seems unlikely. If the story can hold its own, surely the writing should have provided the comedic element, which just never emerged.
The cast worked hard, but to no avail, with Strydom’s character the only one given the words to shine – and she grabs them with relish.
The script also needs an edit, it’s too long. But it’s doubtful that it would have made a real difference.