Thursday, 21 May 2015

Theatre review: Klippies

Continuing the unplanned "African women" theme running through London theatre this year, actress Jessica Siân takes us to South Africa for her impressive playwrighting debut, the coming-of-age story Klippies, A pair of Johannesburg teenagers, poor, white Yolandi (Samantha Colley) and rich, black Thandi (Adelayo Adedayo) are in a couple of the same classes at school, but only really speak once a week, when they both have a long wait to be picked up by their parents from the swimming pool. They slowly build up a friendship that retains a spiky, confrontational edge throughout, even though their mutual affection is real and obvious. Over a long drought season, Thandi tries to help Yolandi out of trouble at school, while Yolandi in turn helps Thandi find a more rebellious side, as they sit by the rich girl's pool smoking and drinking stolen Klipdrift "Klippies" brandy.

Chelsea Walker's production, on a thrust stage from Holly Pigott whose brown tiled floor evokes the dry heat that burns the girls' feet, is straightforward and focused on the two actors' intense performances, stripping things back to show how the simple story deals with so many issues.

In 75 minutes and with a cast of two, Siân shows the complexity of teenagers growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa, and how even an inter-racial friendship brings up the way they try to fight off the decades'-worth of racism with their own determination not to follow in their parents' footsteps. If race relations have started to move on, Klippies suggests the status of women in South Africa may still have a way to go, with both girls' actions dominated by fear of men - Thandi of her ultra-strict father, Yolandi of her aggressive brother.

But it's also a more universal story of friendship and emerging sexuality that's easy to relate to. Between Siân's focused writing, Colley's explosive performance and Adedayo's tightly wound-up one, Klippies really delivers a moving, sometimes funny, always memorable evening.

Klippies by Jessica Siân is booking until the 6th of June at Southwark Playhouse's Little Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through.

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