Review: The Sewing Machine, Assembly George Square
Echoes of South African history quietly sound through this play about an 81-year-old woman whose chief confidante is her trusty Bernina sewing machine. With it she clothed herself and four children, as the wife of a white South African farmer in the apartheid years. Now in an old people’s home, Magdaleen has decided the time has come to sell the machine. “You have to travel light, especially over the last few miles,” she says.
Playwright Rachelle Greeff has created an instantly recognisable character – Magdaleen is your favourite no-nonsense grandmother, unsentimental about getting older, frank and delightfully un-PC. She is cleverly and compassionately brought to life by leading South African actress Sandra Prinsloo and Hennie van Greunen, the director behind the wonderful Normality, here on the Fringe in 2009.
This is one of several shows on this year’s Fringe which paint pictures of ageing. Magdaleen is a universal portrait of “an old woman in a new world, an artefact without a museum”, shocked at the ever-increasing pace of the world, bored by talk of iPods, unimpressed by her family’s suggestion that she should “enjoy her golden years”, fearful of losing her health and her faculties.
But she also faces issues peculiar to her country. While the world at large has changed, her country has transformed beyond recognition, and her way of life is a thing of the past. While her family tell her not to use certain words about people of different races, she simply feels left behind, not only by the young but by the makers of the new South Africa.
And then there is her second son, the boy who loved to sew, who grew up loving other boys. When her husband orders him from the house, she has to make a choice, accept a kind of apartheid of the heart.
Magdaleen would like the world to slow down a little, and her story is a slow-burner. Give it time and space to breathe and powerful themes and resonances come to the surface.
Until 27 August. Today 2:40pm.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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