A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

music
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

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

SASOL FEVER (article first published : 2007-11-4)

Just opened at Catalina Theatre, Sasol Feveris a production based on a historical period in South Africa. In 1950, the government of the day created a Sasol plant in Sasolburg to solve its petrol problems by converting low grade coal into petroleum products and chemical feedstocks. This was followed in 1969 by the commissioning of the Natref crude oil refinery when Sasol phases 2 and 3 began in Secunda.

These projects directly affected Gail Snyman, then a teacher in Wentworth, who became a “Sasol wife”. After long spells of unemployment affecting the community, her husband joined the migration of “bruin ou’s” to the Sasol plants. These included hundreds of skilled boilermakers, welders, fitters-and-turners and engineers.

Written and directed by Gail Snyman, Sasol Fever was conceptualised in 1987 and eventually written in 1994. It was staged with a student cast at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, the Newlands East Secondary School Hall and the Austerville Community Centre.

Sasol Fever reflects Gail’s memories of the effect the construction of the Secunda refinery had on the women, children and families of her community. It also reflects her determination to entrench in public memory those who perished in the process. Apart from casualties and deaths on site, many died on the roads as the men sped home with their hard-earned money every fortnight on the four and a half hour journey to Durban.

Gail has pulled fine performances from her young cast. It’s a well-honed ensemble piece with each performer presenting individual believable characters. June (Chantal Snyman) is married to David (Loyiso Macdonald). Next door to her lives Penny (Megan Snyman) whose husband Jerry (Danville Ross) has a volatile temper. Jane (Daisy Spencer) is battling to cope as a single mother as Mark (Grant Jacobs), the child’s father; is not forthcoming with child maintenance. Then there’s the holier-than-thou Pearly (Mayuri Naidu) who considers her husband Eugene (Rory Booth) a cut above the rest.

The time is 1974 in a community where everyone knows everybody else’s business. The women battle to make ends meet as their menfolk spend their time drinking in the shebeen run by Shireen (Gail Snyman), all the while bemoaning how difficult it is to get a job! Then Eugene spots a newspaper advert for artisans needed for Sasol and they head north – the journey is a fun scene played with vehicle cut-outs.

Time progresses and we see the women now dressed fashionably, exhausted not by housewife drudgery but by shopping till they drop! In the final scene, they await the regular homecoming of their menfolk, but this visit brings tragedy with it.

The script is often fast-paced and hilarious, peppered with the highly descriptive coloured vernacular. The audience responded with equal delight to reminders of the names of long-gone department stores; how a red Valiant was the height of sophistication, and the fact that you could buy a television on special at R299 so that you could watch The Villagers. The story is interspersed with songs, supported by backing tracks.

The set is simple – high rostra surrounded by scaffolding, reminding us of the industrial element. Video screens depict pictures of the Wentworth area and the refinery itself and a poignant section sees a roll of honour of the names of some of the artisans who died directly or indirectly as a result of the “Sasol Boom”.

I would really like to see this production developed further to become a major musical with a live backing as it forms a vital reminder of a period in South African history. It’s truly worth seeing.

Sasol Fever runs until November 18 from Tuesdays to Saturdays at 20h00 (Sundays at 18h00). Tickets R65 (R35 pensioners and students) available online at www.strictlytickets.com or on 031 305 6889. – Caroline Smart




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart