The Performing Arts Centre of the Free State (PACOFS) will kick off its 2018 season by kicking down the walls of secrecy engulfing domestic abuse with a presentation of the harrowing drama This Is For Keeps.
Co-written by Vanessa Cook, Janice Honeyman and Danny Keogh, and directed by Karabelo Plaatjie, the two hander stars Jana Coetzer as Anna and Coenraad Willem as Tony.
Anna, desperate for an escape from her overbearing parents, sought relief in marriage and – as she puts it – “said yes to the first man who came along with short hair and was nice and good-looking.” The beau in question is none other than the full-time plumber and part-time soldier Tony – a dutiful man who does what is required of him and very little else. It is a marriage of convenience at best.
This Is For Keeps invites us into their family home. Or rather an apartment flat Anna does not want to bring kids into, and that Tony promises they’ll move out of soon as his business venture gets off the ground. This is one of the many conflicts that colour the couple’s marital life.
The play, set during the death of apartheid with the black peril at the doorstep, explores this and many other conflicts through dialogue between the spouses. It is rich dialogue that innocently introduces itself as a common “how was your day” conversation between man and wife. But as the story plods along one finds that no words are wasted, that each moment builds up this intriguing tale. The dialogue, albeit designed to uncover the pathology of domestic abuse and gender based violence, is littered with plenty of humorous moments, clever lines and takes the audience on an emotional journey.
The cycle of abuse so common in domestic violence is brilliantly portrayed in this drama, the audience identifies with both the victim and perpetrator – the latter also a victim and crusader against domestic abuse. The irony here is not lost, but more than that brings to the fore a very important element: that perpetrators of domestic abuse are not uncouth monsters but everyday good honest well-mannered people who know very well that their actions are wrong. Hence Tony doesn’t always serve his abuse a la carte, sometimes it is sprinkled with a little bit of love. It is always followed by sincere apology and remorse, and a convincing commitment to change. Heartfelt, but ultimately meaningless words.
The brilliance of the thespians and director is such that the play will draw you into the lives of Anna and Tony, and you will be affected by everything that affects them. It’s an important piece of art that needs to be seriously engaged by all, however be warned that that it contains trauma triggering content for victims of domestic abuse and rape.
This Is For Keeps runs from 30 January to 3 February at the Andre Huguenet Theatre, with showings at 18:30. Tickets are available at PACOFS for R60.
Also published on Medium.