There's an exceptional new girl in town and you have to meet her. Her name is Grieta, a 29-year-old hairdresser from Goodwood who bursts into life in Hennie van Greunen's delightful play Grieta Kry Geleertheid, now on at the Artscape Arena until 3 June before touring the rest of the country.
There's something extraordinary about this ordinary woman and the professor who takes her under his wing and attempts to teach her "everything" at the University of Stellenbosch, which launches its "University for All" initiative, which allows access to university courses to people who do not necessarily qualify for them. It's a pleasingly charming full-blooded two-act play that will have you rolling in the aisles with its hilarious laugh-out-loud wisecracks.The awakening of consciousness
Following in the tradition of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady,Grieta Kry Geleertheid is about the awakening of consciousness, dealing effectively with the human desire for knowledge and entering a world stripped of subjectivity and sentimentality. It deals with the triumph of the human spirit and shows how knowledge can open up a communication between strangers and unlock our everyday suburban prisons.
The play reveals a brutal honesty that reflects a world in which the characters get drunk on words, knowledge and friendship. It skilfully balances the relationship between knowledge and knowing, of questioning and understanding, and want versus need. Spiced with humour and laced with a catching wit, the search for self and the journey to the inner-self are two important aspects that add to the significance and contemporary relevance of the play.
In a world in which identity dominates our existence and everything revolves around what we are and what we strive to be, it is wonderful to succumb to Grieta's worldly wisdom. With her commonsense attitude and know-it-all streetwise wisdom, Grieta is a delicious larger-than-life force of nature who nurtures us with her insatiable vitality and vivacity. Yoda-esque willpower and insight
Although Grieta might seem to be a nobody, her Yoda-esque willpower and insight into finding meaning in expression and expressing unspoken truths, is something we can all learn from, with a smile. The play expressively questions the essence of self-knowledge and shows how easily it can become a virus that can easily destroy self-expression. It examines having a choice in a world polluted by options, and looks at how the choices we make impact on our destiny. At the heart of this coming-of-age tale is a touching romance, an emotional bond between two individuals (and unlikely contenders in the arena of love) who inevitably connect and transcend the reality of their existence.
Newcomer Lulu Botha is sensational as Grieta. This ex-KOVsie has been drawing heaps of attention lately with her brilliant stage work in productions like Carwatch, Paloekas en Die Vagina Monoloë, and delivers a performance that you will never forget. Perfectly capturing the essence of her character, Botha immerses herself heart and soul into a woman she understands and wholeheartedly shares with the audiences. There is tenderness in her deliverance and bravado in her outlandish larger-than-life act.
Equally outstanding and as brilliant as ever, Chris van Niekerk will steal your heart as the mentor from hell who's heavenly compassion transcends illusion and allows for a real connection between him and Botha that is wonderful to experience. Van Niekerk's "Dr Frankenstein" is a wonderful incarnation and his shaping of the "creature" is an endearing and soulful journey.
The magical symbiosis between opposites that attract and individual expression that feeds conflict are wonderfully explored in Grieta Kry Geleertheid.
There is something rather unique about director-writer Hennie van Greunen's extraordinary insight and natural gift to transpose an international and well-known winner and miraculously (and effortlessly) transform it into a local sensation. With "Grieta", as with Shirley Valentyn, God van Chaos, Dinsdae by Morrie and Janneman
, Van Greunen turns the universal into specific home-grown Afrikaans theatre without losing the essence of his source material. His translation is fresh, original and invigourating, celebrating the magic of stories that transform our lives and results in first-rate and proudly South African theatre that is meaningful and rewarding.
This is ideally what theatre is all about; a play that connects people and allows us to fall in love with its absorbing story and outrageous characters, as well as hold up a mirror to our own inane inadequacies.
It's theatre that entertains and amuses that you can happily take home with you and entice friends to take a trip to the theatre and experience the madcap world and antics of a hairdresser from Goodwood that will blow your mind.
Be daring and go and meet Grieta, you won't regret it. Rating 5/5Behind the scenes
After the runaway success of the translation of Willy Russell's other famous play - Shirley Valentyn - the same team brings his Education Rita to South African stages. The original version of the show made its debut in England in 1980 and was an instant hit. The award-winning film version, starring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, followed in 1983. Grieta kry Geleerdheid was translated and directed by award-winning writer/director Hennie van Greunen who has brought us theatre gems like Die Naaimasjien, Op Die Vrou Af, Festen, Die Hangkas Haas, Janneman and Dinsdae by Morrie. Grieta kry Geleerdheid made its debut at the US Woordfees before a highly successful run at the ABSA KKNK.
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