Theatre Review: Your Perfect Life – Charted Through Chat, Or Reunited In Reflection

April 15, 2024

 

By BRUCE DENNILL

 

Your Perfect Life / Directed by Sue Diepeveen / Theatre On The Square, Sandton, Johannesburg

 

That – in very general terms – the burdens borne by women in almost all societies worldwide are not understood or appreciated paints a grim picture in terms of there ever being a level playing field, either for different genders or for women whose worldview differs from other women.

Your Perfect Life tackles this multi-faceted issue directly, using a simple, effective mechanism. Two school friends who have not seen each other in many years, bump into each other at their 20-year school reunion. Karlien (Erika Breytenbach-Marais) married young and has been with the same man more or less since school, with two older kids and a toddler in the mix to underline that what she has been doing for the past 20 years will now need doing all over again. Caitlyn (Faeron Wheeler) is a driven executive, attached more or less permanently to her phone as she both enjoys and seems validated by the constant input required of her by her workplace minions (even if it is after hours).

Revisiting school and the memories of relationships and possibilities there incites an initially stuttering and then increasingly personal conversation between the two protagonists in which the friction caused by being regarded as different, or having your perspective being thought of as less important than somebody else’s, is immediately evident. That is sadly but completely relatable for everyone in the audience, not just the women, as the unspoken question “Why can’t I just be me?” forms in everyone’s minds.

The story’s theme cannot fail to land, so the show is an almost guaranteed conversation starter. On stage, the action doesn’t flow as smoothly as it perhaps could, with it being unclear if the occasional long pause is part of the direction or not and some of the dialogue delivery feels a touch contrived – even if you can sense the established and genuine warmth between Breytenbach-Marais and Wheeler, whose real-life friendship, conversations and concerns inspired the show.

The piece’s compact nature has already helped make it a successful festival fixture and its ability to travel is important, as its motifs are, unfortunately, unlikely to lose relevance.

 

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