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South African Season at Jermyn Street Theatre - Review

Review by Shanna Schreuder

AS THIS year is the 20th anniversary of the end of Apartheid, Jermyn Street Theatre is aptly hosting a South African Season to mark this historic event.

Two of the plays – Fever by Reza de Wet and Statements After an Arrest Under the Immorality Act by Athol Fugard – show us a South Africa before 1994.

Fugard’s Statements reminds us of the brutal reality of race segregation as he closely examines the implications that the Immorality Act of 1927 – prohibiting sexual intercourse outside of marriage between “European” (white people) and “natives” (black people) – has upon two lovers of a different race.

The two main characters – Errol and Frieda – are completely stripped bare to reveal the devastating consequence of their love for each in a country where not only the law, but also the locals see it as a crime.

Fever by Reza de Wet takes us even further back to the 1890s, just before the Second Boer War. A clash of cultures between an English governess, Emma, and the Boer family she’s staying with is brought to life by her correspondence with her sister, Katy, back in London and extracts from her private diary.

Although very different stories, both plays have the common theme of feeling utterly trapped in a situation without being able to escape. In Statements, the strong chemistry between David Judge (Errol) and Jasmine Hyde (Frieda) makes their tragic situation even more heartbreaking.

Sian Clifford as Emma and Peta Cornish as Kay in Fever effortlessly glide from reserved emotions to eventual madness to show how the reserved Victorian disposition suppressed women at the time.

This amazing South African Season at the Jermyn Street Theatre is not just a journey into a nation’s past, but also an excellent example of the power of live theatre.

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