Two award-winning South African stage and television stars, Zane Meas and Christo Davids, have once again teamed up to present the production ‘Van Wyk – The Storyteller of Riverlea’, which is currently showing at the Baxter Flipside for a limited season, until June 29, at 7.30pm nightly. This follows its sold-out success at the Market Theatre earlier this year.
Created and performed by Meas, and directed by Christo Davids, ‘The Storyteller of Riverlea’ explores the life of renowned South African author Chris Van Wyk – his influence as a poet and a writer and as a political activist, as well as his family life and his battle with cancer. This production pays homage to his humour, political values and his storytelling abilities, all of which have touched the lives of everyone that he encountered and those who have read his works.
Meas and Davids both performed as Chris Van Wyk in Janice Honeyman’s adaptation of ‘Shirley, Goodness and Mercy’, which played to full houses in the Baxter Theatre Centre’s production which was also staged at the Market Theatre in 2008. ‘The Storyteller of Riverlea’ marks the fifth collaboration between the two soapie stars, in a partnership that spans 12 years.
Van Wyk grew up in the coloured suburb of Riverlea, just south of Johannesburg – a community which he later lovingly brought to life in ‘Shirley, Goodness and Mercy’ (2004) and ‘Eggs to Lay, Chickens to Hatch’ (2010). He adapted Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ into a book for young readers and wrote a series of short biographies of liberation struggle figures for school children. ‘A Message in the Wind’, published in 1982, won the Maskew Miller Longman Award for Children’s Literature. His memoirs pay extensive tribute to the strong and resourceful women in his family and community, particularly his mother (the “Shirley” of the title) and grandmother.
In 1979, Van Wyk published one of the most-quoted anti-apartheid poems, ‘In Detention’, which appeared in the collection ‘It is Time to Go Home’ and for which he received the Olive Schreiner Prize. He wrote over 20 books, including poetry collections and children’s books. Some of his Individual poems have been published in Europe, Turkey, the United States of America and Canada. In 1996 he received the Sanlam Prize for the best South African short story for ‘Magic’.
The prolific author and poet pulled no punches when it came to castigating racial and social injustice. His writing gave an insight into his creative spirit and his humour spoke of a capacity for resilience and an irrepressible appetite for life, even in complex circumstances. Sadly, he passed away in October 2014, at the age of 57.
There has been a long association between Meas, Van Wyk and Davids. Zane and Chris collaborated on a one-man play about Chris’ childhood friend, William Smith, entitled ‘Smith 4113’. The title was derived the prison number which Smith was assigned while he was detained for his political activities in the 1970s. Zane performed in this production at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown in 1986.
Davids recently wrote and directed the award-winning play ‘My Seuns’, which won multiple awards at the 2018 Aardklop Festival. At the Baxter, in recent years, he was seen in ‘My Naam is Ellen Pakkies’ and ‘Scrooge’.
* Ticket prices are R120 from Mondays to Wednesdays, R150 from Thursdays to Saturdays and R100 for scholars, students and for block-bookings of 10 or more. Booking is through Webtickets on 086 111 0005, online at www.webtickets.co.za; or at Pick n Pay stores.