Drama Like fresh air

Like fresh air

Every moment where you can watch a play or show at a festival that deals with a sensitive subject matter without it becoming a simplistic victimisation narrative is like being a deep water diver coming up for air.

In the Wings is one such play that delivers an emotional tug without falling down the gaping hole of apology culture where people are constantly being told what they’re doing wrong, or Pussy-footing around those perceived as victims. Dealing with the life of a mother and her two daughters, one who is a former child prodigy violinist and another who is going through the turmoils of teenage-hood and is disabled, In the Wings is a play that cuts through the noise with the sheer force of its sincerity.

At its heart the show is about lives on hold and how one navigates this feeling of stagnation without alienating others. Mother (Bo Petersen) is trapped by single parenthood, Jo (Emma Kotze) by having to constantly build her life around her younger disabled sister, and Kathy (Danieyella Rodin) is trapped not so much by her physical problems but by the limitations that people place on her because of them.

Rodin delivers a charming and physically demanding performance in her role.The character of Kathy is probably the single best written character I’ve seen at the Festival this year. She is neither victim nor martyr. She occupies an awkward space in between and in many ways embodies both personalities of her mother and sister.

When Kathy starts to have the hots for Jay (Daniel Richards), who is a young rugby coach at her school, but he only has eyes for her sister, things get a little complicated. It would have been easy at this juncture for In the Wings to go down familiar roads and and become a watered down morality tale about sibling rivalry and the complexities that come with it. But this is a production that at every turn surprises and finds new ways to delight.

If there is a criticism of In the Wings, it’s that it can get a bit technical, particularly in a small space like Masonic Front where the production is running for the duration of the Festival. The actors are constantly being tasked with moving elements of the set around and grabbing new props for the next scene. This can get distracting, not only for the audience but for the actors who don’t always nail their transitions. There is elaborate choreography throughout the production, however, to make up for all these minor moments. Such as a scene where the mother is recalling her daughters playing or a flashback to Kathy being bullied by kids at school. The play opens up and provides charming modes of storytelling using the set and its small cast of four actors to make the spectacle bigger than it actually is. The best moment in the show, however, comes when Kathy is fantasising about dancing with Jay.

As they sway to and fro to Ed Sheraan’s Thinking Out Loud, there is an unexpected chemistry and sensuality that spreads like wildfire in the room. The way Kathy’s eyes stay on Jay with a childlike delight and the longing that can only come from a place of having never been touched by hands burning with desire is mesmerising. It’s a low-key wonder and if nothing else buy your ticket to go see that.

Sihle Mthembu
Cue guest writer

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