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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

I, CLAUDIA (article first published : 2008-07-6)

Under the sensitive directorial eye of Lara Bye, I, Claudia was presented on the main programme of the National Arts Festival and formed one of the major highlights for me.

Tuesdays are not good days in the life of about-to-be teenager Claudia. Her parents have split up and another woman has come into her father’s life, threatening her close relationship with him. She has two “homes” – her room at her dad’s and her “real” one with her mother, a room which her mother keeps threatening to go through with a “fine toothcomb”. Now, this won’t do at all because there are things Claudia doesn’t want her to see with any kind of toothcomb, let alone a fine one!

Claudia spends Monday evenings with her father, so having to leave him makes Tuesdays a miserable day. However, there are a precious 20 minutes when she’s on her own in his downtown apartment which she puts to good use, taking away such things as one sock (to see if he notices) and a coffee mug which has a meaningful date on it.

With her mother and her toothcomb in mind, Claudia takes her treasures to the basement of the school where loose bricks provide good hiding spaces as does the electricity junction box for the socks.

Her activities have not gone unnoticed by the school’s janitor – one Drachman, a former actor, dramaturge and translator. He doesn’t report Claudia but rather protects her privacy – even so far as creating a safety barrier in the junction box for the socks so there’s no danger of an electrical short.

It’s poignant moments like this that make I Claudia one of the most beautiful pieces of theatre on the festival. Excellently portrayed by Susan Danford in highly effective masks made by Melani-Rene Louwrens, we also meet Douglas (Claudia’s vague and dithery grandfather) and Leslie (her father’s new love interest).

Considering that masks cover the most expressive areas of the face – the eyes and the forehead – actors have to rely on body movement, their mouths and speech to get the character across. This makes Susan Danford's performance all the more commendable.

Claudia is prone to staring at herself in the mirror – an indication of her continual self-analysis and those of others. Drachman’s final line is beautifully placed. – Caroline Smart




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