Intimate play is like a great, lost silent movie

Posted: November 18, 2010 in Womb Tide

SHOW: Womb Tide
DIRECTOR: Rob Murray
CAST: Liezl de Kock, Daniel Buckland, Emilie Starke and Kim Kerfoot
VENUE: The Baxter Golden Arrow Studio until December 4
REVIEW: Peter Tromp
PAPER: The Next 48 Hours

‘Womb Tide’ is like a glass of wonderfully matured, 12 year old whiskey: rich and complex, yet featuring a zesty, iridescent undertone to balance out the heavier elements. All of its components are almost perfectly integrated, resulting in one of this year’s best productions.
As a theatre company that is greater than the sum of its parts, FTH:K (From The Hip: Khulumakhale) has delivered a real team effort of a play that must have featured the hand of almost every one of its members, yet it is also a great accomplishment for director Rob Murray. It is a totally immersive and sensory enveloping triumph, the company’s best ever work and it fulfils the promise that FTH:K has hinted at so far but not quite fulfilled.

Liezl de Kock and Daniel Buckland in ‘Womb Tide’
Liezl de Kock and Daniel Buckland in ‘Womb Tide’

The story is based on a Lara Foot play. FTH:K have only gone and done what I’m assuming is a writer’s worst nightmare. No, they haven’t changed her words. They’ve gone one step beyond: they have omitted them entirely. I’m not familiar with Foot’s original text, but I cannot imagine her being anything but pleased with the results Murray and his wonderful little cast have achieved here in distilling the essence of her work. For the first 70% or so of the play, ‘Womb Tide’ is as note perfect as anything I have seen on a local stage in the last five years or so.

In the past, FTH:K very much developed their own material, but I think adapting someone else’s script has freed them to really focus on the tiny details that ultimately differentiate good productions from great ones. That’s not to say that this work isn’t an extension of the themes that have always been at the heart of Murray’s work.
The almost mythical ties that bind people together have always been chief among the director’s fascinations, stretching back as far as ‘Water Pockets,’ which examined the strain on the traditions and unity of rural communities when modernity eventually makes its presence felt in their vicinities. Like in the almost painterly ‘Pictures Of You,’ Murray relishes in laying bare the nuts and bolts of dysfunctional relationships, and despite the loving silent movie signifiers of its first half or so, ‘Womb Tide’ features as damaged a union as we have seen from FTH:K.

The story follows a young couple (played by the irrepressible and almost telepathically attuned duo of Liezl de Kock and Daniel Buckland) from their whimsical, if strained courtship ritual to their later married life and their struggle for context and meaning, especially after their attempts at a child turn fruitless. The husband eventually steals a young black child and this appears to gloss over the cracks in their relationship, until the real world threatens their little fairy tale existence.

‘Womb Tide’ is more articulate than any FTH:K production I have seen. The show is nuanced, yet has a real presence about it and totally owns the space it plays in. At its core is perhaps the best performance by a duo I have seen all year. Buckland and De Kock’s expressiveness leaves one mesmerised throughout, but it isn’t all just silent film clowning. During the course of the play, they rummage very deep into the psychologies of their characters and really take us on a journey in the process.

I felt the show dragged on a little in patches towards the end, but that is only because the first three quarters or so are so spectacular. Make no mistake: this play will blow many, many minds. Don’t miss it.

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