National Arts Festival 2016: The Inconvenience of Wings

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A review by Etienne Shardlow:

Jennifer Steyn and Andrew Buckland perform in the opening of the theatre production, The Inconvenience of Wings at the National Arts Festival, 3 July 2016. The play takes place in a landscape of memory and dreams, where episodes in the play are depicted as flashing montages weaving between the past and present, between consciousness and unconsciousness, between the inconvenience of life and possibility of death. (Photo: Cue/Dani O’Neill)
Jennifer Steyn and Andrew Buckland perform in the opening of the theatre production, The Inconvenience of Wings at the National Arts Festival, 3 July 2016. The play takes place in a landscape of memory and dreams, where episodes in the play are depicted as flashing montages weaving between the past and present, between consciousness and unconsciousness, between the inconvenience of life and possibility of death. (Photo: Cue/Dani O’Neill)

I’m always eager to see any collaboration between Lara Foot and Andrew Buckland. One of my earliest theatre memories is seeing Lara Foot as director of works featuring Andrew Buckland. Prior to this new work by Lara Foot, her most recent production Fisher’s of Hope took home a number of Naledi Awards after numerous nominations.

There appears to be a theme, possibly not intended, in this years National Arts Festival of mental illness. The Inconvenience of Wings also addresses this topic, by taking the audience on a journey backward in time between 1995 and 1961, to witness the relationship between a husband and a wife diagnosed with bipolar.

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Working backwards, from widower Andrew’s own dementia, addiction and unwillingness to let go after the passing of his wife Sara (Jennifer Steyn), through time to their meeting in a park 35 years earlier. How the thread of wings, her dreams of men in her life having wings, of them being angels, wind through her life and how her husband tries to be the angel that she needs. The play took the audience on a journey through the difficulties, and anguish felt by the married couple in dealing with her illness, and the complexity of their friendship with Professor James (Shabangu) who tries to help Andrew (Buckland) deal with his struggle to rescue his wife from her disorder, while dealing with his own loneliness and guilt at leaving his wife and community behind for his life in the suburbs.

Inspired by Lara Foot dealing with her father’s dementia, conversations that she has had with psychiatrist Dr Sean Baumann, as well as the book ‘Addictive Thinking’ by Abraham J Twerski this play shows the torment of both the sufferer, as well as their loved ones in dealing with mental disorders.

The play stars Mncedisi Shabangu, who has worked with Lara Foot in her production Tshepang, which is also a featured production on this festival, and Fishers of Hope. Andrew Buckland who has also worked with Lara Foot over many years, I became aware of Lara Foot through Andrew Buckland when I first took an interest in the theatre. I have always enjoyed the work of Jennifer Steyn on stage and TV, and this time was no exception. Buckland and Steyn played their roles convincingly, and really brought home the frustrations and joys experienced in what can be described as a hard but loving, and ultimately worthwhile relationship. A story that does, ultimately leave one with a sense of hope.

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