Zane Meas The Storyteller of Riverlea
Zane Meas stars in Van Wyk the Storyteller of Riverlea

THE STORYTELLER OF RIVERLEA. Written by Zane Meas. Directed by Christo Davids. With Zane Meas. Photographs: Brett Rudin. Baxter Theatre.


Not only a poignant portrait of Chris van Wyk, The Storyteller of Riverlea is a warm reminder of the power of storytelling.

As actor Zane Meas introduces us to the renowned and respected South African writer he also brings home the idea that endings are as important as beginnings and that we make sense of the world through stories.

Meas breaks the fourth wall very early on and quickly establishes a warm rapport with the audience, who punctuate his bon mots with muttered agreement and sighs of recognition.

As Chris van Wyk he runs us through part of his life in Johannesburg suburb Riverlea and specifically his relationship with writing and the people he knew. In writing about the people of Riverlea he reminded them that they were worthy of recognition, capturing their essence in recording the minutia of daily life.

Tightly directly, elegant prose

Books hanging on wire hangers from the ceiling become a talking point, and Meas easily moves around the set, which features chalkboard floors and wooden stairs, and the use of videography doesn’t dominate but complements.

This is a tightly directly play in that everything about it is meant to point back at who Chris van Wyk was. At this point, so early in the run, it is still a performance, but the ease with which Meas slips into the excerpt/characters that hark back to Flats (the play that encouraged him to pursue acting) shows he will get comfortable very quickly and soon disappear into the role.

The play’s prose is as elegant as the poet’s writing and Meas very neatly encapsulates the political activist’s prickled pride when he delivers the stinging retort to Khuli Roberts’ poorly conceived column about coloured women.

While there are many beautiful lines lifted directly from van Wyk’s writing, one that stands out is about how great transitions have the power to erase memory.

Well, true … but not as long as we have his stories to remind us of what was, and not when we have plays like these to remind us of what is and make us question whether our own contributions to this world will be meaningful.

More theatre in Cape Town.

What: Van Wyk the Storyteller of Riverlea
Where, when: Baxter Flipside until 29 June 2019