Klippies tells the story of two teenage girls, Thandi (Adelayo Adedayo) and Yolandi (Samantha Colley), as they strike up an unlikely friendship during a drought-stricken summer in South Africa. While Thandi is keeping herself out of trouble and studying for exams, Yolandi is bunking school, helping her brother to try to steal parts from teachers’ cars, and desperately trying to find a better life. Klippies is South African native Jessica Siân’s first full-length play, following its rehearsed reading at the HighTide Festival in 2013.
The show is short in length and stature, with only two characters appearing in the show. Despite this, director Chelsea Walker makes the production feel huge. Music is key to the show itself, and it even states in the show’s playtext that music by Die Antwoord should be used at the director’s discretion, but Walker’s use helps to set the mood of how our protagonists are feeling. Weather is also used in an interesting way, with the drought playing a crucial part in the characters’ journey right until the show’s climax.
Throughout the play Thandi and Yolandi break out into monologues, giving us clues into the deeper issues in their lives. We know Yolandi comes from a broken background, living in a shack and facing a lot of issues with her mother, while Thandi has a comfortable background, wishing to be with her mother who has passed away. The reveal of their issues becomes a catalyst to their friendship, but their friendship becomes strained when other issues start cropping up, such as sexuality.
Our leads in the performance are faces that will be familiar to some, with Colley coming from a theatre background – fresh from her incredible performance in the Old Vic’s The Crucible – while Adedayo is known for her work in TV and film, notably in the BBC Three comedy Some Girls, so you just know that you are going to get a great performance from them both. In fact, they go above and beyond in their roles, each monologue being delivered with such emotion and heartbreak that the audience were hanging on every word.
But in all fairness, the biggest star of Klippies is the script itself. Siân has a way with words that I have not seen in a long while. It is witty, fresh and at times incredibly heartbreaking. She captures the fears of coming-of-age without hitting clichéd territory. She also manages to give a refreshing take on living in South Africa, focusing on the characters rather than its history.
Klippies may be short, but it packs a powerful wallop within its hour and fifteen minutes on stage. Siân’s poetic coming-of-age tale finds it footing paired with great direction from Chelsea Walker, and tops that with two great actresses – you have a runaway smash. If this is not proof as to why we need to continue funding new talent, I don’t know what is.
Klippies is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 6 June. For more information and tickets, see the Southwark Playhouse website. Photo by Richard Lakos.