I got hold of the self-described “young director” of “Wreckage”, Brink Scholtz, 34, to find out what was going on in her head.
I loved “Wreckage”, and after three packed showings, so did two full houses who gave it standing ovations.
But others find it disjointed and hard to understand.
She says it’s a post-modern piece and has no linear or sequential narrative.
It is “definitely not a history play”.
So that’s out the way.
What we have are “incidents” which “work at the level of metaphor”.
“Stylistically it’s trickey. We are dealing with shards. There are moments and some stories are told, especially about relationships, but these are merely moments of depth. “Don’t worry if you feel lost or fragmented. You are invited to absolutely take what you want from the work. It is a total experience of wreckage. We did not use the word ‘wreck’ because the ship becomes unrecognisable. The form changes.”
Yes, the work is about a “grassroots” theatre company (UBom!) “meets an elite” theatre company (First Physical) and there are “huge clashes and deep understandings” which result from this collaboration.
It was a “massive production” with many elements to manage.
The piece is about “collisions” and many of the central elements emerged out of her work with different groups and individuals.
“I excavated the piece. I know the different worlds (of uBom! and First Physical). The last stories in Wreckage are the casts’ own stories.”
These were “personal and authentic experiences” and often about the “impact between different bodies and different worlds”.
Wreckage does deal with the clash of cultures where Africa and Europe “bump”, but the piece quickly moves into a series of “constant collisions”.
Who is Mr Collett? “He is a character mentioned in history, and his wife did die, but (in the piece) the story is of him discovering a dead woman, and from there it becomes metaphorical”.
She says the actors “occasionally break through the fourth wall”.
This wall, I’m told by reviewer Jane Stone is the gap between actors and audience, where the actors discuss their character with the audience.
Brink again asks viewers to ditch the linear, sequential narrative approach.
“It’s about incidents where the links are associative, where one moment morphs into another, so for example, the death of an individual becomes the death of a culture.”
“I wanted it to be multi-layered and always shifting.”
Not for a moment did she make the work with audience response in mind.
“I try to find the truth in this group (of performers), on this stage, in this place. What is our wreckage?”
But she hopes fervently that this process will resonate with the audience.
“I have no idea about authorial intention. The work has a logic of its own, and there is space for multiple meanings.”
“The (bleep!) problem is with the Western need to order and capture the world, and all the accounts of the first ship wreckages were written down by Europeans. I felt it was important to deal deeply with the multiplicity of meanings (which are associated with ships being wrecked on the Wild Coast). There is not just one account. I asked the cast and we interacted with the written sources and accounts, so our wreckages are there too, in relation to the (Eastern Cape) area.
The one historical book she used (mainly) was by journalist Ben Maclennan (“A Proper Degree of Terror”).
Is she happy with the show? “Yes, I am, but it’s not perfect. Thank god for that.
Although the opening night had been “shaky” technically, she felt that the essence of the piece was brave and honest.
“We are getting there now.”
“There is something really valuable in the collaboration. I can feel it and it is enough for me. The actors are growing. ”
She herself works with “every single bit of my being, my mind…”
Works like “Wreckage” can be slightly “sadistic in the direction. You are looking for the points of pain and vulnerability – in yourself and the people you are working with. This is what it means to be intimately human. I’m not a happy-go-lucky person. If I was I would be an accountant and have made some money.”
Now that the work is done, she attends the shows – and “watches the audience. They are deeply engaged.”
She agrees, it’s unusual for the student to be directing the master. She was taught at Rhodes by Andrew Buckland who appears as a performer in the large cast of “Wreckage”.