Trigger warning: Rape, sexual assault, harassment
After being thoroughly impressed by Helet de Wet’s writing in last year’s student production, Vrek, I was keen to see the University of the Free State’s new piece Coming Soon, especially since she is now in the director’s chair.
Michael Garbette, Megan van Wyngard and Yoliswa Jacobs in, Coming Soon, directed by Helet de Wet. Photo: CuePix/Louisa Feiter
In some respects Coming Soon is your typical play within a play, centred, as it is, around preparations for an avant garde performance of The Brothers Grimm version of Sleeping Beauty— with all the sexual violence inherent in that fairy tale— coming to life on a stage set in the small restaurant that hosts it. The play was as strange and unsettling as I expected it to be as Sleeping Beauty stands as a metaphor for the violent possession of women’s bodies by men.
De Wet has obviously drilled her cast thoroughly but unfortunately this workshopped piece lacked the coherence needed to bring its message across. The deliberate contrast of cryptic and mixed metaphor-laden dramatic speech and rough, modern voices is often overwhelming.
CW Laten gives a solid performance as the predatory actor Francois, who constantly sexually harasses the waitresses Point (Yoliswe Jacobs) and Zero (Megan van Wyngard). Despite being relegated to little more than furniture within the restaurant, the two women nurse their own dreams of stardom and clash constantly with the actors, suffering verbal abuse from the female cast members as well.
While the rest of the cast delivered strong performance, Michael Garbett’s portrayal of the Cook is wooden and jars heavily with the piece.
In the end, Coming Soon’s various commentaries on religion, rape culture and theatre in general become confused and tangled together, and left me unsure of whether the production was very good or bang average.
Coming Soon, Rehearsal Room, 6 July, 7pm
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