Scorched, the play directed by Jade Bowers, the Standard Bank Young Artist of the Year for Theatre is an elaborate illustration of how complex grand histories affect the simple minutiae of subjected lives. The play opened to a full house on Friday at the Rhodes Box Theatre.
Hardly halfway through, one feels like if Bowers had produced a song and not directed a play. Scorched would have been the bluest of ballads.
Bowers has also managed to unfold the complex appeal of high maths theory of pylons as a metaphor of life, however, without losing the poetic grounding necessary to keep human emotions central to proceedings on stage. The difficult story is inherently Middle Eastern. Bowers and her troupe have moved it into something closer to us all than a universal theme.
Of course much of the magic of Scorched issues from the beautiful way it was written by Lebanese-Canadian play-write Wajdi Mouawad. The play tells the story of twins Janine and Simon Marwan, respectively played by Cherae Halley and Jaques De Silva. This is their journey to the heart of their mother’s war ravaged Middle Eastern homeland to find truths about their roots, a long lost sibling and father who they’ve grown up presuming long dead. In this land of war, never ending revenge and exacting code of family honour, they discover dark and shocking secrets about their mother, her life story and its implications for who they think they are.
In this way, Scorched is a monument to the things and facts people often purge out of their lives. Like memories, forbidden love destroyed by culture or babies given away birth in the name of duty. Hence, heart break and longing are central ingredients of this play.
The functions in the lives of the characters through death of loved ones, the loss of dreams and love to war; and the breakdown of relations between a mother and her children along with the struggle to recover. The administrative struggles unleashed by death and the funeral event lends a Kafkaesque element to the play. There’s a refreshing tragicomedy in a nugget that deals with the inefficiency of a funeral officer. Everybody laughs along. Then there’s the acoustic guitar music of Matthew MacFarlane to accompany the actors. He plays in real time on stage. The rawness and immediacy of his strumming strings lends delicate strength to the story. The result is a touch of light-hearted recovery from the emotional scorching of the play.