by Jessica Siân .
Southwark Playhouse (The Little) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 6 June 2015.
Mon-Sat 8pm Mat Sat 3.30pm.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 May.
Superb acting in a splendid production – and a play that deserves both.
Only one of Jessica Siân’s two characters is strictly a klippy – Yolandi, the poor White teenage waster who goes swimming and walks barefoot (apparently an essential aspect of klippydom). She may not wear overmuch in the heat but she’s shielded by layers of aggressive defensiveness, especially when fellow school student Thandi strikes-up a post-school conversation.
Siân, Johannesburg-born but living and working for years in London theatre, is in her twenties and writes about a South Africa where apartheid hangs in the consciousness as a thing from the past. Social disadvantage here lies with the Afrikaner, while Zulu Thandi’s a conscientious student with aspirations to the law, and a wealthy father. She earnestly persists in making friends with the slightly older girl who physically towers over her.
Samantha Colley’s face is set in angry defiance, gradually nuancing into puzzled suspicion before the physical release of energy as she strides into genuine friendship (she can’t stop using the word “friend” she’d vehemently denied before).
Black and White seems no problem, while Thandi progressively overcomes Yolandi’s defensiveness about the social and financial gap between them. Contrasting Colley’s jumpy energy, Adelayo Adedayo’s Thandi has the measured calm of a purposeful mind, planning ahead and finding solutions. Minor hurts get forgiven and private rituals develop in a context of heat involving a cigarette-lighter and sunburnt sands.
Then everything’s disrupted by a revelation from Thandi, setting-up a visceral rejection by her new friend, leaving it touch-and-go whether the relationship will survive.
Siân creates her characters with easy-seeming confidence; their talk and behaviour as friends apt for the mid-teens and their social backgrounds precisely. She also knows how to develop matters credibly without the pace flagging; just occasionally Yolandi seems to acquire a sudden articulacy, even allowing for her friend’s influence.
Only the conclusion sees reality overtaken by a literary quality, heated intensity replaced by the conscious poetic imagery of rain in a less convincing conclusion. But there’s a lot in place in this accomplished first play, all of it realised in the detail and energy of both performances in Chelsea Walker’s clear and beautifully-paced production.
Thandi: Adelayo Adedayo.
Yolandi: Samantha Colley.
Director: Chelsea Walker.
Designer/Costume: Holly Pigott.
Lighting: Jamie Platt.
Sound: Ella Wahlström.
Movement: Diane Alison-Mitchell.
Dialect coach: Mary Howland.
Fight director: Pamela Donald.
Assistant director: Fay Lomas.
Klippies received a rehearsed reading at HighTide Festival 2013.
Its first production opened at Southwark Playhouse on 13 May 2015.
Production supported by Unity Theatre Trust, Arts Council England and the British Council’s SA-UK Season Fund.