By Chanel Pallent
The end of April saw the last three performances of Rhodes University’s latest talent: the cast and crew of Die Bannelinge. Written by Bauke Snyman and directed by drama lecturer Heike Gehring, Die Bannelinge made Rhodents proud when they performed Rhodes University’s debut entry at the ABSA Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KNKK) which took place from 4 to 11 April.
Despite this being the first time Rhodes has entered this all-Afrikaans festival, Gehring and her cast walked away with the majority of the awards in their category. Die Bannelinge won the prize for Best Production, with both Gehring and Snyman winning the awards for director and script writer. The Drama Department’s own Shaun Acker won the prize for the festival’s Best Actor.
Die Bannelinge is based on three classical Greek plays, namely Antigone, Oedipus Rex and Oedipus at Colonus. Each of the characters in Die Bannelinge is based on one of the characters featured in these Theban plays. Antigone is the daughter of Oedipus, and she must leave the body of her dead brother unburied and condemn his soul to eternal damnation, or she must die for committing treason.
When asked about his inspiration for Die Bannelinge, Snyman states that Greek mythology is the basis of Greek tragedies. But in South Africa, much of the population suffers from a South African tragedy, namely being victims of crime and poverty. “What is the myth we [as South Africans] base our tragedy on?” he says.
The play is predominantly centered around the issue of who owns the land. Lena (Zanne Soloman) is the domestic worker of Ani (Madelé Vermaak), Reon (Tristan Jacobs), Jo (Zanne Soloman), Nic (Tristan Jacobs), Teo (Ignus Vermaak) and Mnr “O” (Shaun Acker). The family Lena works for now has control over the land that is rightfully and originally hers. She cannot, however, make a claim on this land, as it will pass on to the children of Mnr “O” after his death. Lena then moves to claim back the land for herself and her mentally disabled son, Benjamin (Rowan Roux).
The play makes use of very visually disturbing aspects and a lot of violence of stage is used. The raw emotion the audience sees the characters experience is definitely a tribute to Gehring and her cast. Gehring admits that producing “an Afrikaans piece at an English University was a challenge”. She wished to delve into whether the ideals of having the “integrated and harmonious company of a multi-cultural community” are actually carried out by South Africans.
Despite the challenge, Gehring and her cast went on to win an award for best production at the KNKK and went on to show that having an integration of cultures at Rhodes University really goes a long way.