The So Solo Festival directed by Gita Pather is now in its fourth year. This year Pather commissioned a work for the Festival – Tracks by Maude Sandham and Nicola Pilkington.
Performed by Maude Sandham, Tracks, with all the wealth that word can convey, is the real life story of her grandfather, Alan Sandham, and how he crossed the colour bar in Apartheid South Africa, moving from the coloured area of Fordsburg to the blue collar white area of Crosby while working as a bricklayer for the Railways. It is a story of how he kept his secret for forty years and how her grandmother kept his secret for another twenty years.
Sandham investigated her family history as part of her academic studies at Wits University, ultimately being the one to tell her father and uncle about their father’s life.
There are many such stories in South Africa, but the secrecy that pervades this tale is often what prevents them from being told. This is a brave story, and Sandham thanks her family for allowing her to tell it in the public forum of theatre.
The work is exquisitely scripted, and one develops a strong empathy for the long dead, rather difficult old man, his wife and his descendants.
The acting is tightly directed and quietly understated. Spine tingling moments happen as the tale unravels. “My grandfather did not attend the births of his children, but he was always nearby, and after they were born he gently studied each of them, holding them near the window and turning them this way and that, looking at them intently.” The audience knows what he is looking for and our hearts break a bit at this new indignity with each child.
The human interest of a story beautifully told holds the audience spellbound for fifty five minutes. I loved it, and most of the audience did too.
Tracks can be seen at the So Solo Festival at Wits Theatre until 8 October 2017. Booking at www.webtickets.co.za. Online tickets R75 and at the door R80.
Next up on Friday 29 September 2017 is My Koek is Moeg at 13:15, Tracks at 18:30 and Agony at 20:30.