DIANE DE BEER
DEAD YELLOW SANDS
DIRECTOR: Bo Petersen
PERFORMER/WRITER: Graham Weir
LIGHTING DESIGN: Darron Araujo
VENUE: Barney Simon at the The Market Theatre, Joburg
UNTIL: December 10 (Tuesday – Saturday at 8.15pm and Sunday at 3.15pm)
It feels like a moment in time.
Now he’s there, talking about different lives, all exposed in a specific shard of light – and as quickly it is all gone, quiet and then as it began – with a young boy’s voice, singing.
It takes a while to catch the monotony and the accent of the voice telling that first tale of a town called Benoni, translated from Hebrew as Son of Sorrow, to get to grips with what is unfolding. But then the tales take you by the hand and the heart and you fall silently into this reverie which seems to be snapshots of sacred yet suffering lives.
It’s in the writing, the telling of the tales, the performance, the lighting, all working together seamlessly to catch an audience moving through at that time. They have to stop, and listen, to immerse themselves in the powerful onslaught of what is unfolding mostly in their mind’s eye.
The actor is capturing different lives and he does this with a slight movement of how he is sitting in a chair, a voice that might shift an octave or a half, and accents. But then there’s the shift in each tale and a light(s) that falls in a different way.
Yet nothing detracts from the essence of each life as it is washed ashore in this crashing of a wave. There’s little trickery and no gilding of these stories. It is all up to the author who mesmerises with a message he wants those listening, to hear.
It’s hard to explain because these are not lightheartedstories and all have an inherent sadness about a life that has been caught up in some slipstream which is difficult to stop or even divert. And yet, one is left with a feeling of gratitude about what you have and this experience in particular.
While the state of art and artists, their diminishing options as time progresses and they a age are also offered, you are faced with an artist who is battling all those forces and triumphs in a way that is quite extraordinary in the conception and the execution of this performance.
There’s the writing of each particular story, the accent chosen, the character dissected and then there’s Weir’s performance that never falters. It’s quiet and yet each word cuts the air even (or especially) when whispered – or sometimes sung.
The extraordinary lighting on its own colours and shades each individual character vividly.
Written and performed by Weir, it is a piece we are catching at the tail end of huge acclaim. As it jabs at the heart it also lands softly as these characters take you by the hand, draw the curtains just to glimpse a life and then let go.
It’s haunting and magnificently compelling.