SWERFGOED review. Directed by Tinarie van Wyk Loots. Written by Bauke Snyman. With Anna-Mart van der Merwe, Nicole Holm, Richard September and Andrew Laubscher. Baxter.

Swerfgoed review Baxter


Swerfgoed is currently being performed in the differently configured space of the Golden Arrow Studio – which was fun to check out, with the audience on one side only. Until we got the really gigantic couple sitting in front of us. They managed, with various huge body parts, to block out a lot of what happened on stage.

Three silver streamer curtains divide the stage into areas and a pink neon strip light writes MOTEL into the blackness. Two rostra look like they have been bitten into by a giant. One is covered with astro-turf, the other grey and bare. And then there are the bits and pieces; odd motel stuff, a bed, two outside chairs.

Swerfgoed is described as being “somewhere in the immediate future. Water is the most expensive resource and people would kill to get it. At Motel Stillewater – somewhere on an isolated, godforsaken stretch of land – an ancient treasure is locked away.”

Unfortunately, that is all I understood of the story. My Afrikaans wasn’t speedy enough to absorb everything that was said in this fractured, fraught and confusing text. But, to be fair, I think I understood most of it, although even the specifics were vague. (Why was the ‘erfgoed’ in the box so utterly dangerous?)

In this piece, a strange and unusual friendship unfolds, where family and violence go hand in hand, and water is inheritance and battleground. Unfortunately too many characters, too few performers, and an untrustworthy text confused rather than enlightened.

Swerfgoed review Baxter

Swerfgoed review: “Confused and disapointed” 

I love Anna Mart van der Merwe, Nicole Holm and Andrew Laubscher. And Richard September was fantastic (even though I didn’t know what he was doing a lot of the time). But as I sat watching four brilliant performers, with total commitment and effort and energy, I realised that sometimes that’s what theatre is. Energy, commitment, passion and hard work can get it wrong too. Lovely moments, strange design elements, weird people and strong ideas were not enough to make this piece work.

A train smash of styles (Sam Shepard, Tarantino, Welcome to Woop Woop, Reza de Wet) made it feel derivative too. I left confused and disappointed, and felt a little bit like the first draft of a screenplay had been decorated and put on stage. And I was sad. Sad because all that work hadn’t translated into a brilliant and riveting piece.

What: Swerfgoed review

Where and when: Baxter Golden Arrow Studio from 5 to 22 September 2018 at 7.30pm, with matinees at 3pm on Saturdays 15 and 22 September 2018

Book: Webtickets