OH BABY, I’M A WILD ONE. Written and directed by Louis Viljoen, with Emma Kotze
There’s a production currently on the boards in Cape Town which portrays a desperate young woman’s search for redemption. At one stage of her journey a dog appears. No this is not Annie, and given that the demise of the dog is a central metaphorical theme and that some of the dialogue borders on the pornographic it really isn’t suitable for children.
The woman is Emma Kotze, and while she claims that it is her sister that is wild, it doesn’t take much to realise that it is perhaps Emma herself who is not just wild but quite unhinged. Or perhaps not… and therein lies the rub.
Dark corners of people’s minds
Louis Viljoen has dipped his quill in his usual mix of vitriol and rage, and despite the depths of depravity that he delves into, it is the banality of the evil he unearths which is the most chilling. He explores those dark corners of people’s minds and hearts and peels away the veneer of respectability from the seedy underbelly of life in a manner that leaves one feeling quite bleak.
While the young woman opens the monologue describing the events of her sister’s wedding with the indication that “the evening took a turn” it becomes apparent that it is more than just the evening but rather her life itself that has taken a turn. And by turn I mean a 360 degree revolution ending in a calamitous crash. It is a crash that comes unexpectedly and while you are brushing the debris from your eyes the text continues relentlessly. Viljoen takes you by the hand until suddenly you are in a caliginous corner with no escape route and facing a yawing abyss devoid of morals and decency. It is in this liminal space that you examine your own prejudices and preconceptions of the violence which consumes us all.
Viljoen adapted an 1835 short story, Diary of a Madman, by Nikolai Gogol earlier this year. Dangled performed by Rob van Vuuren presented a portrait of a man who embarks on a misogynistic path of destruction. Unnerving and uncomfortable mostly because Van Vuuren was so relatable and one felt tricked in to empathising with such an odious character. After watching Kotze and sympathising with her 20-something anxieties of being a young teacher and the pitied spinster in the family, one would be forgiven for feeling a comparable sense of betrayal. She is initially endearing and there is much sympathetic nodding as she expands upon the pressures of society in both a personal and wider societal context.
It is her friendly admonition that we shouldn’t depend on mutual agreement or any sense of commonality to form the basis of any future understanding. By the end of the play, you understand the precise meaning of her warning and you will be rubbing the bruise from kicking yourself at not paying heed…
Unlike his previous scripts there is not the plethora of the profanity but if you were hankering after a scatological metaphor (or three) you won’t be disappointed. The writing is taut and could benefit form a slightly less frenzied pace of delivery. Many of the phrases deserve a languid, lingering appreciation and it is when Kotze slows down the pace that she really has you in the palm of her hand. The play is short and runs at less than 60 minutes, leaving you with questions rather than answers and hankering after just a little more.
The small stage is perfect if not a tad claustrophobic by the end of the performance. If you are unconsciously pulling at your collar it may be because the impact of the revelations themselves and not the lack of air is stifling. Viljoen is masterful at slowly building a character and then with an uncanny sleight of hand revealing some aphotic kernel of truth which abhors the light. Frontiersmen and Pervert Laura both held that moment of revelation where all was not quite as it seemed..
Oh Baby, I’m a Wild One is not the performance you want to take your Great Aunt Mildred to, unless she’s broad minded and unperturbed by sexual banter. The subject matter is neither pleasurable nor palatable but it packs the punch that is Viljoen’s trademark. At its heart it’s a play about a girl and a boy and a smoke and an interrogation of who does the smoking, and who is the smoked.
When and Where: Alexander Upstairs, until 4 February