Whether you watch Fiela se kind (Fiela’s child) on a DVD player at home or on stage at the theatre, this emotionally charged story will not leave you unchanged. The movie based on the book by Dalene Matthee was first released in 1998 and now, 20 years later, the drama came to life at the Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town (not its first stage production). One may wonder why a story set in the 19th century is still relevant today. To me the answer is simple: It’s a story about a mother’s love for her child.
It’s the story of a Cape Coloured woman, Fiela Komoetie (Shaleen Surtie-Richards) who discovers a 3-year-old white boy outside her home and raises him as her own. Benjamin (Eloff Snyman) grows up alongside Fiela and her husband’s other children, and for this little boy there’s nothing strange about it. Fiela is the only mother he knows. When two white men visit them to conduct a census they discover the white child and decide that a judge must determine his fate.
On the other end of the Knysna forests the Van Rooyen family remembers their son, Lukas, who went missing at the age of three. In court Barta van Rooyen (Edrien Erasmus) identifies Benjamin as her lost son and he is sent to live with them. Regardless of Fiela’s objections and plea at court, the decision has been made. Benjamin Komoetie is Lukas van Rooyen.
The cast delivered a brilliant performance with Shaleen Surtie-Richards, especially, being at the top of her game. It’s amazing that the same actress from the 1998 film could perform the role on stage in 2018. The rest of the local talent included Phillru van Achterbergh (grown-up Benjamin/Lukas), Paul Luckhoff (Elias van Rooyen, Lukas’s father), Jaimie du Toit (little Nina and Lukas’s sister) and Marissa Claassen (grown-up Nina). Johny Klein played Fiela’s supportive husband, Seling Komoetie. A simple set sufficed.
The only down-side to the performance had nothing to do with the performance itself. A few groups of high school students attended the show (Fiela se kind is a prescribed work at most government schools) and unfortunately did not respect the actors or the emotions they were trying to convey. This resulted in them laughing at unsuitable times (like when Elias gave Benjamin a beating), distracting both the audience and the performers. I lost count of how many times Shaleen Surtie-Richards had to pause and wait for quietness before she could continue with her lines. While I understand why they were there, their behaviour was a real shame.
In the end the elements of great storytelling, brilliant performances and a simple but effective set, made this a spellbinding experience. Fiela se kind is still the same amazingly beautiful story that audiences relate to – even today.
Have you seen the play or movie and do you agree?