Drama Good show, poor message

Good show, poor message

This is a difficult review to write. While Suster excels on a number of counts, certain elements in the work make it an ambivalent experience overall.

Suster is the sequel to Smaarties, and also serves as an exploration of mental illness. The final instalment in the trilogy will be at the Festival next year. In Suster’s case, the focus is on Dissociative Identity Disorder, commonly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

Carina Nel from VNA Productions performs in ‘Suster’ at the B2 Arena, Monument, Lucas Avenue, Grahamstown, 09 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. ‘Suster’ is the sequel to the 2014 award winning “Smaarties’ written by Jannes Erasmus and directed by Quintin Wils. Photo: CuePix/Pearla Berg.

Carina Nel from VNA Productions performs in ‘Suster’ at the B2 Arena, Monument, Lucas Avenue, Grahamstown, 09 July 2015, at the 2015 National Arts Festival. ‘Suster’ is the sequel to the 2014 award winning “Smaarties’ written by Jannes Erasmus and directed by Quintin Wils. Photo: CuePix/Pearla Berg.

While in Smaarties the audience followed the schizophrenic trials of Mr. Lotz, Suster allows viewers to get to know his younger sibling, Sibyl. Well, some of her variations anyway.

Suster is visually striking. The entire stage is coated in the torn-out pages of old books. Three amputated hands lie on the bed of paper, clutching lightbulbs. On closer inspection, you see that these hands are bloodstained.

The lightbulbs are just one of the ways in which the play harkens back to its predecessor. While Suster can stand on its own, it makes more sense as part of Jannes Erasmus’s theatrical trilogy. As with Smaarties, it is necessary to understand Afrikaans to grasp much of the plot.

Carina Nel delivers a strong performance in a difficult role, swopping between six different personas – namely Sibyl’s doctor, Sibyl herself, six-year-old Amanda, hyper-sexual Patriciacall- me-Patty, religious Maria and thuggish Jeff. As with Smaarties, the technical elements of the production are exceptional, the music is moving, the aesthetic powerful, and the multimedia elements work well.

Why then, did I have such mixed feelings leaving the theatre?

If you check the programme, you will find that the age restriction of Suster is 13+ for Mature Themes. I would have set it at 18+ and issued trigger warnings. I cannot explain why without spoiling the plot, which in itself is an issue, because the central trauma is treated as a glib plot twist. Erasmus told me that he had “a problem with people who put theatre on just to shock”. I’m afraid that Suster did exactly this.

Sibyl’s Dissociative Identity Disorder felt like an overblown parody of mental illn

ess at times, as if a genuine human illness was being exhibited as a freak show. And, ultimately, a victim is reduced to their trauma. The audience gets to know Sibyl’s crazy alter-egos and her family history, but learns little about the original woman.

It’s entertaining and nothing if not disturbing. But I fear I felt uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons.

Kerstin Hall
Cue student reporter

Leave a Reply


Latest CueTube video

Twitter


Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in D:\iis\cue\wp-content\plugins\gantry\core\gantrygzipper.class.php on line 153