ACTOR SANDRA PRINSLOO CAPTURES THE FRAILTY OF OLD AGE IN ELSA JOUBERT’S MEMOIR SPERTYD

DIANE DE BEER

Pictures: Robert A Hamblin

SPERTYD

Sandra Prinsloo as Elsa Joubert in Spertyd
TEXT ADAPTATION/DIRECTING: Philip Rademeyer
ACTOR: Sandra Prinsloo
PRODUCERS: Margit Meyer-Rödenbeck and Alexa Strachan
DATES and times: Tonight 8pm; Thursday April 22 8pm; Friday April 23 8pm;
Saturday April 24 3pm and 8pm; Sunday April 25 2pm
VENUE: Atterbury Theatre
BOOKINGS: https://seatme.co.za/tc-events/spertyd-met-sandra-prinsloo/

AGEING is not for sissies … and that was writer Elsa Joubert’s big battle as she seemed to hurtle towards yet another of those big numbers so revered –  not by but seemingly of the elderly.

There’s also a glaring difference in the ageing of those between 60 and 80 and those above 80, she argues, as her children get busy planning her 90th birthday.

And she isn’t even sure she wants to participate in any celebrations!

It all began with the death of her husband Klaas, trying to adapt to a life without him, then her choice to move to an old-age home with losses of many different kinds looming large.

It starts with a family home swapped for a single room, the loss of mobility and, perhaps more than anything, the loss of independence as your world becomes smaller by the day.

Words and writing are her closest friends.

She is in mourning for her life, the one that is gone, that which is disappearing and she wants to hold onto. She has to work hard at letting go and finding a new source of inspiration. Writing and reading remain her close friends and are probably what pulls her through until she can see the light.

Adapting a book of 200 pages plus and capturing the essence in a script of 20 pages is tricky but director/writer Rademeyer has cleverly focussed on what he felt would best get to the heart of what Joubert was trying to say.

It has to do with acceptance and focussing on the small miracles that become lost in a world where everyone is rushing past. Ageing halts you in your tracks. It gives you time to breathe, to take in the world around you. It could be seen as a life gone by and also a future that might deprive you of the freedoms of the past – yet open up a new world where life slows down and gives you the chance to behold and to cherish.

This isn’t an easy text to play, with Joubert finding it especially tough to adapt and to accept the hand she has been dealt. Who would have known that this woman of such accomplishments (Die Swerfjare van Poppie Nongena for example) would suffer such anxiety in old age – a time when one could possibly savour everything you have achieved.

But Prinsloo knows how to tell this story. By the time she and Rademeyer stepped into the rehearsal space, they had both spent time refining the text in different ways and they knew where they were headed and what they hoped to achieve.

Philip Rademeyer in repetition. Picture Stephanie Gericke

It’s the peaks and troughs that she navigates so seamlessly as she takes you to a world either you yourself – or your parents – might be approaching. And as Rademeyer, still a young man, says, the story brings empathy for something all of us will experience in some form.

It is through the movement, her laughter, her initial obstinacy which grows to acceptance that the story is given life. And then you can savour Joubert’s words, her struggle to find solace and finally her wonderment as she moves closer to the meaning of especially that which has become her life.

Prinsloo is a master at getting under the skin of a character. And with this not her first woman navigating old age, she had to find the uniqueness of the writer’s voice, her way of coming to terms with a life she feels so diminished.

And finally, as Joubert understands so miraculously, you have to find meaning for yourself and it isn’t in the ageing process. But if you look, listen and open your heart, it’s there. There’s something about the frailty we have as babies when we first arrive in this world, which returns in all its tenderness at the end of our lives.

It’s a quiet production in which the story and how it is told is what overwhelms you. And again Prinsloo as always has the final word. She tells it with heartfelt honesty and finally a gracefulness that embraces Joubert’s world and the riches it still has to offer.

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