So much to do, so little time: it's become a mantra for the modern world. No wonder many have taken to writing lists to keep track of it all. But are we making space for what really matters while going about our busyness?
That's the message at the heart of The List, Canadian writer Jennifer Tremblay's moving play. It tells the story of a woman who has moved to a village to get away from the craziness of city life. Unfortunately, rural life isn't much better. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by raising children and increasingly isolated from the other moms, she obsessively makes lists to order every aspect of her life. It seems to be the only way she'll live out her duty as a woman, a mother, and a wife. And it all seems to be working until she neglects to do one simple task and has to suffer the disastrous consequences.
A thriller-like quality, but set in a kitchen
"The List is a gripping tale with a thriller-like quality, but set in a kitchen," said director Leila Henriques, who is herself a mother of three. "What's extraordinary is that it speaks to the contemporary woman. I immediately understood it, the experience of having small children and this quest for perfection."
Susan Danford, the remarkable and award-winning actress at the heart of this production, feels the same way. "For me there was an instant resonance with the character in this story," she said. "As an actress I have played a broad range of roles, from Southern Belles to the woman from Benoni, but none for me so specifically and poetically capturing the contemporary woman - taking the domestic to an epic and majestic level."
Quite tragic in the end
The List was originally written in French but has been translated into several languages in productions around the world. And while parts of the beginning were perceived as quite funny (something I didn't always get), as the story progressed and we approached what we knew was coming, it became quite tragic in the end.
Ultimately, it seems that the lists we create to control our uncontrollable lives can end up controlling us instead. And no matter how many tasks we tick, there will always be something more to do. All this endless activity leaves no space for the unscheduled things that really matter. In the end, it's just like John Lennon said: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."The List (PG) is at Cape Town's Baxter Theatre until 4 May. Tickets are available from Computicket. The Baxter Monday special will apply on 15, 22, and 29 April, when patrons can enjoy a sumptuous buffet meal at the Baxter restaurant and then go on to the performance at 7pm for just R100. For discounted block bookings, contact Sharon (firstname.lastname@example.org and +27 (0)21 680 3962) or Carmen (email@example.com and +27 (0)21 680 3993) during office hours.