Race to See Hanekom in ‘Hol’

I don’t usually review Afrikaans theatre productions – my grasp of die taal is indirectly proportional to my conversational insecurity – but I have to say something small about Nicola Hanekom’s Hol, currently playing in rep with Seashells at the Artscape Arena.

I’ve been a fan of Nicola’s since Betesda and Lot – two of her site-specific hits at various local festivals (though sadly, as yet, not in Cape Town). Despite lacking language confidence, I jump at the – sadly rare – opportunity to see Afrikaans theatre in Cape Town.

Hol is more than just an opportunity to see Afrikaans theatre, though. It is an opportunity to see complexity of script, inventive simplicity of set and utter mastery of breath and movement. It’s a chance to see Nicola Hanekom blow you away with what is one of the hardest-hitting, most powerful performances I’ve seen on stage this year.

One woman. A treadmill. Seventy minutes (or, as Hanekom personally likes to measure it, eight kilometers) of astounding performance detailing one woman’s obsession with her physical and mental limits. It’s hard to simplistically label this piece physical theatre. The work is beautifully – sometimes brutally – physical, yes, but the script is so central, the words so elegant and densely packed with layers of meaning that is that rare play that proves just as cerebral as it is visual.

My greatest regret is that my language skills weren’t up to the test of fully appreciating Hanekom’s wordsmithery. Did this prevent me from being completely blown away? Not in the slightest.

You need to see Hol. It is a profoundly powerful work and Hanekom’s performance is a tour de force.