A quite believable journey, actually

Max and Lola

Vinette Ebrahim and Chris van Niekerk act in ‘Die Ongelooflike Reis van Max en Lola’ at the Baxter Studio until February 7.

There was an old woman in the parking lot outside Spar, trying to get into the passenger seat of an old car. Being parked next to mine, I had to wait for her to get through the slow and painful process of disengaging herself from her walking frame and easing herself into the seat before she was able to close her door and I open mine.
Her husband, of equal age or older, also needed time to move the  frame back down the aisle between our cars and manoeuvre it into the boot.

It was hot and I was standing in the full sun holding bags of groceries. But you cannot be irritated by age that is so obviously agonising and apologetic. If you are, you’re simply an arsehole, and I’m not that bad.

Anyway, we exchanged a few words. She apologised for making me wait, I replied, without thinking: “It’s ok, we’ll all be old someday.”

Well, not if we die first. But nevertheless. And shit, it’s true.

Which led to thoughts on how it must feel to be that old, not just in the body, but the body’s relation to the mind. I’m 42 and still think I can do things I did in my 20s and not suffer for it, and what with our minds so resistant to the idea of mortality, at 80 – should I make it, of course – I’ll probably be thinking as if I’m in my 30s (see, some maturity may creep in).

Later that day I came across the following quote by Robert A. Heinlein (yes, it was on Facebook – where else do we ‘come across’ quotes in the digital age): “Anybody can look at a pretty girl and see a pretty girl. An artist can look at a pretty girl and see the old woman she will become. A better artist can look at an old woman and see the pretty girl that she used to be. But a great artist – a master – and that is what Auguste Rodin was – can look at an old woman, portray her exactly as she is, and force the viewer to see the pretty girl she used to be. And more than that, he can make anyone with the sensitivity of an armadillo, or even you, see that this lovely young girl is still alive, not old and ugly at all, but simply imprisoned inside her ruined body. He can make you feel the quiet, endless tragedy that there was never a girl born who ever grew older than eighteen in her heart…no matter what the merciless hours have done to her.”

The quote comes from his novel Stranger in a Strange Land but what was left off the quote, was the next sentence: “Look at her, Ben. Growing old doesn’t matter to you and me; we were never meant to be admired — but it does to them. Look at her!”

I venture that while women’s hearts may be trapped at 18, men’s are trapped at about 12, which is why they’re more interested in admiring than being admired.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that I enjoyed watching Die Ongelooflike Reis van Max en Lola at the Baxter Studio. It made me think about getting old, and memories, and the fact that reaching 80 years of age doesn’t mean we no longer want to have fun, it’s just more difficult.

I don’t think the acting was great, Vinette Ebrahim certainly did not convince me she was a day short of 80, Chris van Niekerk did a better job. Vinette seemed more like a 58-year-old suffering the early onset of dementia and making it work for her as best she could. Perhaps she and fellow writer Hugo Taljaard – who also directed –  should have dropped a decade off the characters.

The set is literal, the plot is linear and good enough to maintain interest but doesn’t offer any real surprises. The comedy, for the play is a comedy, maintains a slight tautness to the muscles lifting the sides of the mouth, for the most part, with a few chuckles. I do remember laughing out loud at some point, although I think I was alone in the outburst.

So nothing in particular to recommend it. But hell, I enjoyed it. Much as I enjoyed the fact that the brief conversation I had with the old lady in the parking lot was unremarkable in content, yet the circumstances prior to it created a pause in the day. A moment of reflection. In respect of the play it was the realisation: Pair hedonism and age, and there go I.

Die Ongelooflike Reis van Max en Lola is on at the Baxter Studio until February 7.

— Steve Kretzmann