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HELLO AND GOODBYE (article first published : 2004-08-14)

Running at the Catalina Theatre until August 22 is The Actors Co-operative’s production of Athol Fugard Hello and Goodbye, directed by Garth Anderson and starring Oded Rouche and Lucy Wallace.

In his programme notes, Garth Anderson reminds us that this is terrain walked by giants. Fugard remains our finest playwright and Hello and Goodbye, the reunion of brother and sister in Port Elizabeth in 1963, a rare gem.

Johnny and Hester, the “second hand Smits of Valley Road” unravel the burdens of their past as they meet for the first time in 15 years. Johnny has been caring for an invalid father, Hester selling herself in Johannesburg. Damaged and isolated, they unpack their father’s possessions in search of money, answers, resurrection.

See this play. The two performers who appear under Anderson’s riveting direction breathe new life into a justly renowned classic.

Oded Rouche’s beautifully sustained performance as Johnny offers a finely nuanced portrait of a fragmented man who has never grown up, his confusion bordering on insanity. In Rouche, Anderson has crafted a subtle foil for the towering desperation and bitterness of Hester.

Lucy Wallace delivers a riveting and visceral performance as Hester. Her bleak description of the journey from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth reflects her shame at being “second class”. As she looks around the shabby room and declares that “we weren’t just second hand, it was something worse” there is only brutal honesty and utter resignation. “What does Hester Smit mean?” she asks herself, and her question cuts to the heart.

This is a powerful and moving production, with both young performers displaying an emotional maturity beyond their years. It is not often that we get to see such fine performances serving such a remarkable play.

Make every effort to see Hello and Goodbye. That is how you can nurture this extraordinary young talent in our midst.

Hello and Goodbye runs at the Catalina Theatre until August 22 with performances at 20h00 (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R65 (R50 children and pensioners). Bookings through Thandeka at the Catalina on 031 305 6889. – Clinton Marius




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