A provocative scent of the past as Die Reuk van Appels plays at State Theatre





SCRIPT: Johann Smith (adapted from Mark Behr novel)

PERFORMER: Gideon Lombard

VENUE: Momentum, State Theatre

DATES: until September 24


If you don’t know how to reply to that ubiquitous question, “When have we had enough?”, see the provocative Die Reuk van Appels.

If we don’t investigate and explore the past, how do we learn? How do we not make the same mistakes and punish ourselves and others all over again?

So many have pointed to specific cultures that have made others suffer like they have suffered. They understood the pain and yet had no qualms to dish it out themselves. But if we look at why certain decisions were made and actions were taken and have the in-depth conversations leading from that, which might be uncomfortable yet necessary, we can perhaps forgive and be forgiven. Never forget.

The past looks very different when time has elapsed and what might have been acceptable to some, is viewed from a much different perspective. That’s one of the things that knocks you when listening to the young Marnus chatter about his life in Apartheid South Africa circa 1973.

It’s the way innocence was politicized in the smallest way. Certain words, spark the memories and take you back to that very dark place. How could the same people for example use a pet name like the K-word in diminutive form for their young sons while at the same time telling their children never to use the K-word? How does a child deal with that in his head?

The other was always painted in the darkest terms and children were taught to do everything in the name of Christianity because then they would go to heaven. If you were young and white in this country, life was a breeze. You were protected from the harsh reality and your days passed easily with few hassles. Or that’s what Marnus was led to believe.

The biggest problems in his protected world were the issue of his sister’s confirmation as head girl the following year and the identity of a house guest which was not to be revealed to anyone but the family.


But as with most things, life was more complex and this is where Lombard’s acting skills soar. He holds the floor easily as the young Marnus and the many characters he has to adopt and with the director’s help, the story is skillfully massaged to keep the audience hooked.

As a solo show which is played almost stationary, the movement they manage to incorporate is stunning. It lifts both the emotional level and introduces a physicality which is at the heart of the horror of this young boy’s history.

He might not understand everything that’s happening in his life and his country, but he can feel when things aren’t what they should be and once the questions start, there’s no going back.

Lombard displays an innocence without being too childlike which is charming and encapsulates the 11-year-old who is baffled by his surroundings which seem to be crumbling around him.

It is an intimate piece of storytelling that embraces a much wider world and one that resonates as strongly today with everything happening out there. Judgement is such an easy thing while your own life warrants no scrutiny. How could it, you’re a god-fearing man?

With the seemingly gentle script with brutally dark undertones, a searingly sensitive performance by Lombard and Bye’s brilliantly sculptured direction, it is powerful theatre that both illuminates and pummels you emotionally.

If not in this way, how will the lessons ever be learnt?

Die Reuk van Appels will be staged at Potchefstroom’s annual arts festival Aardklop from October 3 to 7 October and at Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre from 17 October to 11 November.