By Arlene Mouton
Buying Time, a play written and performed by students of the Walvis Bay Secondary School with the help of Richard B. Swartz from ASSITEJ Namibia, was staged on Friday September 14 2007, in the school hall of the aforesaid school. I was fortunate enough to be part of a most appreciative audience.
The play – which ran for about 45 minutes – evolved with a surprising twist and I can safely say that there was never a dull moment. It was a depiction of a typical 21st century stereotype family with all the drama that goes with it:
A mom, Lilly – played by Marieke Blaauw, who is also the current Junior Mayor for the town of Walvis Bay – a devoted wife and mother who doesn’t feel all that appreciated for what she does and who finds herself wearing the “green jacket” in her marriage;
The father, Jack (Donovan Botes), who does not have time for normal family life as he is too busy making money to “provide for the family”;
Seventeen-year-old daughter, Nicky (Jo-Marie Steyn), who finds herself battling with typical teenage issues like maintaining a perfect body whilst trying to avoid humiliating things like “total social suicide” and having a “BF”;
Jeff (Ruan Oosthuizen) the self-confident younger brother, who knows what he wants and wants what he sees;
Not to forget about the next door neighbour who practically lives with the family, Gabby ( Leonie Peters) who “cares” a lot about her fellow human beings whose lives she knows inside and out, kind of a ‘social encyclopedia’.
The play depicts a family setting with Lilly preparing breakfast for the family and dad and children scurrying about to get ready for work and school, and they all leave without properly eating or greeting her.
She is left feeling unwanted and neglected, but is not given a moment’s chance to mellow in her self-pity by her loudmouthed neighbour Gabby, who enters without invitation.
Gabby immediately wants to know whether they have marital problems seeing that Jack (Lilly’s husband) left in such a hurry to get to work on a public holiday! The rest of the family returns after a while, blaming Lilly for their humiliation believing that she knew, but omitted to tell them.
During this well orchestrated chaos, there is a knock at the door, the visitor who calls himself Gregg Eastwood (Andre Moller), announces himself to Jack as the Angel of Death.
Jack acting in shock, asks him to leave his house, but is even more shocked when Gregg tells him that even though he came alone, he will not leave alone because he always takes a soul with him.
Jack makes a deal with the Angel of Death and they agree that Gregg would stay over until the following evening, just to buy some time.
The next day Jack arrives at the office and is greeted by his secretary Doreen (Lize Grobler). Doreen is a loyal, hardworking and efficient employee, so much so that she accepts her boss’s rude behavior as her fault and tries her best to make him feel better, but all her efforts are shunned because Jack, believing he has only one day to live, is in a bad state of mind.
He orders Doreen to summon his lawyer Vanessa (Wilme Muller) and his best friend Dave (Lance Reid) to tell them about his ordeal with the Angel of Death.
The play continues with Nicky – who evoked a few laughs from the audience – having to deal with a blocked credit card which was “total social suicide” for her, practically forcing her father to buy her a car because she absolutely needs one.
She also needs a whole new wardrobe because the clothes that she bought the previous week are just so “last week”. And Jeff, who wants a Yamaha ‘360S’ motorcycle to the tune of N$60 000.
All this whilst Jack is trying to explain to his disbelieving friends about his deal with Gregg and the importance of finalizing his last will and testament.
Lilly walks in on their discussion and realizing that her husband and Vanessa are on a first name basis, gets suspicious of them and jealous.
It seems as though Jack has no time for his wife and Lilly feeling left out and in the way decides to leave, with Gregg offering to accompany her home.
Upon leaving Lilly remarks that it’s good to have someone care about her well-being for a change.
That night at a ‘farewell’ braai that Jack arranged, the tension is high as Lilly realizes that her husband invited Vanessa.
Dr Joseph Anderson (Bradley Oosthuizen), who had an affair with Vanessa out of which a love child was born, Dave’s wife Suzy (Hanri Landers), and Cathy (Jolise Swart) Nicky’s best friend, are all present. And of course no party is a good one without an uninvited guest, in this case Gabby.
Lilly makes it clear to the other women that her husband invited Vanessa.
Later that night sparks fly high as Lilly, finding herself alone with Vanessa, decides to give her a piece of her mind and the women get into a catfight of sorts.
Suddenly Lilly clasps her chest and it is clear that she is having a heart attack, Vanessa cries for help and everybody comes rushing in, but it is too late. Dr Joseph declares her dead.
For the few moments that followed, shock and awe were evident on the faces of the cast as they realized the twist of fate, and I became aware of Gregg dressed in black attire sitting on the kitchen table which was already nicely set by Lilly, all in vain once more, Jack, realizing his mistake in that the Angel of Death in truth came for his wife and not himself got so angry that he ordered everybody out of his house. And all I can say is Bravo!
A brilliant, unpredictable story played by talented teenagers. I noticed that whoever played a role in these teenagers’ lives did a pretty good job of it because knowing that they wrote the play themselves, it is remarkable the kind of understanding they have for life and human relations in general.
I particularly liked Andre Moller in his subdued and serene role as Gregg – the Angel of Death. Lize Grobler, the receptionist Doreen, also stood out with her motherly way of doing things.
I think the role suited her and she made me nostalgically remember my own school’s secretary.
Leonie Peters (Gabby) is a natural and acted superbly.
Jo-Marie Steyn (Nicky) was well connected with her character and Donovan Botes (Jack) is a born performer.
Wilme Muller, Jolise Swart, Marieke Blaauw, Bradley Oosthuizen, Ruan Oosthuizen, Hanri Landers and Lance Reid all displayed incredible talent.
And however unpolished, these children have potential to go far provided they have the passion for the art of theatre.