George has just retired, while his wife Helene already has big plans for them – to move from their home in South Africa and emigrate to New Zealand. George has a million different reasons for not wanting to move – including wanting to be near where his dead son is buried. Bur Helene feels increasingly uncomfortable living in South Africa and she usually gets her own way in the end…
Written and performed by Robyn Paterson, The South Afreakins is a one-woman that paints a picture of the concerns of the older generations living in SA. Some like George want to live a quiet life and having once raised a child there, feels he belongs to the land, just as it ‘belongs’ to him. In contrast Helene has never felt that sense of secureness and belonging. Some of this could be put down to her own prejudices, and having a ‘local maid’ re-enforces the ‘us’ and ‘them’ division in her mind.
Paterson isn’t afraid to the let the characters be unsympathetic at times, but even in the case of Helene when she’s at her ‘worst’ we understand her feelings of being a ‘prisoner’ at home, even if it’s possible that her ‘house arrest’ is an arrangement of her own making.
Without giving anything away, the couple do catch a flight to New Zealand, but like all tales about expeditions, it’s not the final destination where the life lessons and epiphanies takes place, but the journey itself.
Since the play’s intial inception, events such as Brexit have taken place, re-opening all the questions regarding what constitutes an ex-pat as opposed to an immigrant, and the criteria of ‘fleeing from danger’. While the play can be loosely termed a dark comedy, the questions it asks are very pertinent, especially in relation to current events.
© Michael Davis 2017
The South Afreakins runs at the Vaults Festival, London until 19th February 2017.