The Old Man and The Sea: simple story, profound meaning

Photo: Shraddha Patnala

James Cairns, Taryn Bennett, and Jaques De Silva deliver an imaginatively theatrical spin on Ernest Hemingway’s well-known novella.

Brought to life by Contagious, theatre makers from Johannesburg and Cape Town who have performed both nationally and internationally, the production is directed by Jenine Collocott and adapted for the stage by writer Nick Warren.

It’s a timelessly simple tale. Audiences are introduced to a small fishing village in Cuba by Carlos, a fisherman who begins the extraordinary tale. The three actors switch roles through simple but clever character-identifying props and masks, while the scenes literally revolve around the fishing boats, the tavern, a dining room, and a soft on the docks. This innovative set and the simple costumes give audiences a good grasp of the three main characters and four supporting roles which makes the performance easy to follow even for the uninitiated.

The character masks, created by Jenine Collocott.

Santiago, a fisherman whose luck has been dry for 85 days, finally catches the biggest fish he has ever encountered. Despite the village’s pity and blatant skepticism of Santiago’s skills as a fisherman, what the old man encounters on his adventure with the marlin brings to light his resilience, pride, and incredible commitment to his profession. The other main character, Manolin, played by Bennett, is Santigo’s eager young apprentice. The heartwarming relationship between the two is captured by Manolin’s faith in and admiration for the old man and his knowledge about the sea.

What impressed me the most was how the actors employed a variation of voices to represent each of the characters, while maintaining expressive Cuban-Spanish accents. Raoul, one of De Silva’s two characters, also sings between scene changes giving the story a more distinctive Cuban atmosphere.

The production is appropriate for all ages, and leaves the audience with a sense of optimism about the future of the old man and young Manolin.

The production will be performed at the Hangar on 4 July at 19:00, 5 July at 18:30, 6 July at 10:00 and 17:00, 7 July at 10:30.

By Shraddha Patnala