[star rating =4/5]
IMPI Theatre Company returns to Edinburgh with their hilarious, heart-breaking exploration of marriage, grief, and the immigrant experience.
Writer and actor Robyn Paterson created The South Afreakins as a tribute to her parents and performs as both Gordon and Helene in this one-woman show.
Gordon and Helene feel trapped in their lives in South Africa. Frightened of the endemic violence and weighed down by the past they decide, or rather one decides and the other sort of just goes along with it, to emigrate to New Zealand where they can enjoy their retirement.
The experience of making their home in a new country reveals hidden depths to this Basil and Sybil Fawlty-esque couple.
South African humour is famously bleak and The South Afreakins has this in spades. Helene is a typical Afrikaanse tanie and the conversations between her and her husband Gordon are razor sharp and delightfully absurd.
Both characters happily stretch the limits of the others patience with their willingness to bend logic just to win whatever battle of wills they are currently waging against the other.
South African humour often also hinges on the country’s social and political history and the absurdity of South African society both before and after Apartheid. Just ask Trevor Noah!
Although Scottish audiences might not be expected to identify with the more nuanced South African stereotypes in Paterson’s show, her fluid portrayal of a bickering yet loving couple will resonate with international audiences.
Mixed in with the humour is a thoughtful examination of the loneliness and freedoms which come from being an immigrant, going beyond mere homesickness.
Any immigrants in the audience will surely feel the sincerity of Paterson’s portrayal. The impact of violence and fear on people’s lives is also examined along with the concept of humour as a coping mechanism against fear.
Although Paterson plays two characters in the show she does this without the benefit of costumes or fancy sets.
Using just a table and some chairs and other small pieces of set dressing she brilliantly conveys two entirely separate and well-rounded characters, both of which have their own foibles and flaws but remain likable.
The South Afreakins is a fun and unexpectedly heart-warming comedy which is truly made for an international audience.