The tragic incident when a South African mother murdered her three seriously disabled children in London in 2014 has been brought to the stage.
Unfortunately, writer Eva Mazza and director Simona Mazzahave have produced a repetitive dirge, a slow, badly paced play in which the ghosts of the three children, all suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy, return to the home of the judge (Jerry Mofokeng) to plead their case.
It’s a senseless exercise because it attempts to give the children’s perspective on how they suffered and how they were never given a chance of life. The three characters, played by Lea Viver, Franclois Viljoen and Lisa Derryn Overy, randt and rave and put forward arguments, saying they cannot find peace because they are floating in limbo between two worlds.
Their depressive, suicidal mother took it upon herself to murder her offspring – a haunting scene in which we watch a clock ticking as she snuffs out their young lives.
The writer based her narrative on events surrounding the murders, news items gleaned from various sources, blog articles, comments on Facebook, as well as a transcript of the judge’s reasoning in declaring the crime manslaughter and sentencing the mentally ill woman to a jail term.
It’s a one-sided diatribe and, interesting to note, very little medical evidence was included in the script to provide another side to the argument.
The play’s biggest challenge is that it’s difficult to find emotional connectivity with these half-baked characters. The acting, too, is never commanding – and the histrionics by Lisa Derryn Overy, playing Sam, the older of the children, fails to strike a responsive chord.
The only actor who gives the play some gravitas is veteran performer Jerry Mofokeng, a judge who was not sure whether he was dreaming of the children or whether they were genuine spiritual entities manifesting in his lounge.
The production argues that society is prejudiced against the disabled and that forgiveness is for the living and acceptance is for the dead. Its rambling message is dissipated at times by long, unnecessary pauses and implausible passages of dialogue.
One can see what the writer and director are trying to achieve – but its misses it mark by a wide margin.
Acceptance runs at the Fringe at the Joburg Theatre, until 16 October 2016.