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

THE HOUSE HUSBAND (article first published : 2000-07-9)

When actor Aldo Brincat went to Washington DC earlier this year with a piece of industrial theatre, he utilised some of his spare time to research how ex South Africans were coping in a foreign country. The result was The House Husband which premiered at this year’s Not the Grahamstown Festival, Aldo Brincat’s brainchild which allows the Durban public to see KZN productions headed for Grahamstown closer to home courtesy of the Durban High School.

The House Husband recently appeared on the fringe of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. This one-man show sees Aldo, the husband of Poppie, talking about their new life together in Canada. Poppie has a job – she’s a skilled nursing sister who formerly had a top position at a hospital in Katlehong where the entire staff turned out to “toi toi” her farewell. Her husband stays at home, doing the housework, cooking and cleaning – hence the title.

In The House Husband, the couple have just had a blazing row. To be more precise, Poppie rang to say she’s coming home at lunchtime to give him important news. With nothing else to do with his time, he decides to produce a slap-up three course meal to surprise her. The plan backfires and she erupts in fury. The fact that she has just resigned and is pregnant might have something to do with it, but this is only information he picks up later.

Aldo takes his audience second-hand through the emotions of a homesick Afrikaans meisie who is battling to make a new life in an unfamiliar country. The weather is awful – all rain and sleet – and the settling process isn’t helped by food parcels sent by her parents. Musing on the forthcoming baby and his scratchy relationship with Poppie’s parents, he considers bitterly that “her folks are probably telling everyone that their grandson’s going to have a maid for a father.”

He clings firmly to the fact that “everyone says after 900 days we’ll feel comfortable”. Now, nearly three quarters of the way to this goal, Poppie has announced that she’s had enough. Not to worry, he’ll revenge her by making a potjiekos meal that evening and he’ll eat his supper in the bathroom – just to show her. Show her what, we’re not quite sure.

His memory moves further to the day he assumes the child was conceived. He came home to find clothes all over the place and Poppie in the bath, somewhat drunk having consumed a fair amount of wine. Whether the ensuing seduction had any ulterior motive, to cover a previous assignation with someone else, the audience is left to guess.

The husband is left facing the decision of whether to stay where he is and remain his own man, albeit impoverished or return to South Africa with his beloved Poppie to a scenario of crime, street children, squatters and stifling in-laws.

Aldo Brincat is a very talented young actor and mime artist. However he tends to perform in a very low key state, almost confidential and apologetic. Even sitting in the small B2 arena of the Monument, it was sometimes difficult to catch what he was saying. Half-blind I may be, but deaf I certainly am not and Aldo needs to bring a bit more robustness to his performances. His material certainly stands strong and needs no half-hearted interpretations.




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