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TEVYE AND HIS DAUGHTERS (article first published : 2003-02-5)

“In a word, revakh ve’hatsoleh ya’amoyd la ‘yehudim. That’s too many words to translate” - are among the opening lines of Tevye and his Daughters, Pieter Scholtz’s highly entertaining one-man show currently running at Kwasuka Theatre in Greyville. The general sense of the phrase is that “as long as a Jew lives and breathes in this world and doesn’t have more than one leg in the grave, he mustn’t lose faith”.

This kind of bitter-sweet philosophy with a comic bent is behind the writings of Russian-born Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem who eventually moved to the United States in 1914. At the time of his death two years later, his completed works totalled 40 volumes and 150,000 people attended his funeral in New York.

The writing of Sholom Aleichem is probably better known to the general public through the highly popular and successful musical Fiddler on the Roof that was based on his works. It features as its central character Tevye the Milkman, a part which Pieter Scholtz has played to much acclaim in several versions. I should know. I was Golde to his Tevye in an earlier production at the University of Natal and it remains one of my most favourite roles.

Tevye and his Daughters is presented in two parts, each telling a story. The first is titled Tevye Strikes it Rich and deals with a journey the milkman makes where he encounters two ladies on their way to the weekend home of a rich friend in Boiberick - a destination from which he has just returned.

They persuade him to turn his cart around - and his feisty horse, about which there is much humorous comment! – and take them to their destination. On arrival, he is over-awed by the opulence and richness about him but not too overcome not to accept a succession of neat brandies! Pockets lined with money and cart laden with food, he returns to his humble home, redoubtable wife and seven children with a much altered view of life.

The second story, titled Hodel will touch the heart of any parent who has had to be separated from a child. In Tevye’s case, his beautiful and intelligent second daughter falls in love with Perchick, who is a revolutionary. In defiance of tradition, she proudly and independently announces her engagement. When she leaves to follow her husband to the frozen north perhaps never to return, Pieter Scholtz handled the farewell scene with much sensitivity - later rising like a phoenix, Tevye’s sense of survival to the fore.

Sholom Aleicheim beautifully paints the character of this simple milkman with his own rather rustic philosophical bent. His creation is safe in the hands of Pieter Scholtz who gives Tevye the earthiness the character demands as well as imbuing him with his own robust dramatic style.

The two stories each run for about 45 minutes with an interval in between. Mention should be made of Jonathan Mkhize who is on the lighting and sound desk for the first time and handles his duties effectively and sensitively. Another favourable mention is the perfect choice of music, in this case taken from the evocative folk repertoire of the Klezmer musicians.

Tevye and his Daughters runs until February 22 with shows Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30 and matinees on Saturdays at 14h30. Tickets R45 (R35 pensioners and students). Groups of 10 or more get 2 tickets free. Book at the theatre on 031 309 2236 or Computicket.

The production is a good vehicle for fundraising purposes, contact Pieter Scholtz for special discounts. Caroline Smart




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