Lucy O’Connell is a freelance lifestyle and travel writer with a fierce passion for South Africa. Read what she had to say about Family Secrets at the Pieter Toerien Theatre at Montecasino!
Here’s the thing about families: they’re messy. While the thought of a family event might strike horror in some and elicit squeals of happiness from others, one thing that every family unit has in common is an unfailing propensity to attract mess.
Perhaps that’s why Enrico Luttman’s play, Family Secrets, is so appealing to its audience. Woven into his story of a playwright son who returns to his family home and his mother in the face of career rejection, are startlingly relatable moments that bring up unbidden reminders of our own messy families. Maybe it’s the familiar back-and-forth between a mother and son that stings just a little too close to home; maybe it’s the painful reminder of time wasted and lost; maybe it’s the deep realization that our seemingly immortal parents are, in fact, just fallible beings. Whatever it is for you, these achingly real moments rear their heads amidst the humour (this is, after all, a comedy) and have us reaching for our phones to give Mum a call the second the curtain falls – or, at least, wishing that we could.
Dorothy Ann Gould takes on her role with rare grace and startling humanity – as the feisty Italian mother, Grazia, she is both charming and frustrating, a woman who has seen drama and mess lived out both in her own world and in the soap-operas that play endlessly on her TV. Opposite her, fresh from his acclaimed role in Equus, Sven Ruygrok plays the part of her son Adamo beautifully – his desperation, his loneliness, and his characteristic offspring-selfishness are in equal parts relatable and infuriating.
Together, they navigate the mess of familial history and the inevitable secrets that come with it and, in doing so, they create an experience that is at times both hilarious and deeply moving. Both characters are thoroughly steeped in the world of the soap opera, Grazia in her constant watching, and Adamo as a TV writer, and yet their relationship seems to illustrate that real life is so often far messier than any suds-soaked on-screen story could be. Truth is stranger than fiction, and in finally letting their secrets see the light of day, perhaps the characters are finally able to breathe a little easier.
While the translation into English from the play’s native Italian doesn’t flow naturally at all points, the human connection between its sole characters seems to more than make up for that, and their own messy reconnection serves as the perfect reminder of our own duty to those who are (skeleton-packed closets or not) closest to us: family. This is one mess that you’re not going to want to miss.
Directed by Alan Swerdlow and designed by Kosie Smit.
Family Secrets is playing at Pieter Toerien’s Montecasino Theatre from 14 June to 30 June 2019. All bookings at Theatre Box Office & COMPUTICKET