Van Wyk: The Storyteller of Riverlea strikes just the right note

How do you measure a life? In the level of impact, one has had or in the number of laughs they’ve shared with those around them? 

This is part of the task that the commemorative piece about author Chris Van Wyk takes upon itself. 

Titled: Van Wyk, The Storyteller of Riverlea, the one-man-show that’s written and performed by Zane Meas under the direction of Christo Davids, goes to what could possibly be the beginning, and tries, rather admirably to showcase Van Wyk’s colourful and wordy life. 

Meas is Van Wyk in the production, and it is refreshing how his portrayal strikes just the right note. He doesn’t impersonate Van Wyk, but he takes on the character of Van Wyk, which is comfortable on the eye. 

The production’s set is a number of items that serve a dual purpose, to catch the eye, and to help Meas in telling a specific part of Van Wyk’s life. 

There are on hangers dangling from the ceiling some of the books that have influenced Van Wyk’s life and creativity, from Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, to Es’kia Mphahlele’s Down Second Avenue the significance of each of these books in his life is highlighted. 

Another interesting device that is used by Davids and Meas, is to use actual works by Van Wyk to tell anecdotes about his life. 
Zane - Van Wyk: The Storyteller of Riverlea strikes just the right note
Zane Meas and Christo Davids. Picture: Supplied

My Mother is used to highlight a story about his mother Shirley, the poem I Have My Father’s Voice is used to tell us more about his father Nicholas, while the story Flats,  is used to provide a closer view of life in Riverlea. 

The production is hosted in the Mannie Manim theatre at the Market Theatre, which is a cosy, intimate theatre space at the theatre. 

The theatre is a small one, which makes the environment a lot more intimate for the storytelling.

The various pieces of monologue, whether its Meas reciting poetry by Van Wyk or reading from his extremely popular memoir Shirley, Goodness and Mercy, it creates a clearer picture of the talent and prowess Van Wyk possessed but also how he managed throughout his life to tell stories that were authentic, deeply human and balanced beautifully the good and the bad. 

Whether you are a fan of his work or not, the production Van Wyk: The Storyteller of Riverlea will introduce you to Van Wyk, let you into some things you may or may not have known about him and celebrate the life of this wordsmith that was seriously well lived, all in the space of an hour. 

* Van Wyk: The Storyteller of Riverlea is on at the Market Theatre until February 24. Tickets are available from R90 on Webtickets. 



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