Monsieur Ibrahim: Not a story, an experience

"Momo", played by Dawid Minnaar, reflects on his life lessons and milestones in ‘Monsieur Ibrahim en die Blomme van die Koran’. Photo: Ettione Ferreira/Cue

When was the last time you heard a story which made you really feel something? Something which reminded you of the stories you read as a child, something truly beautiful and innocent?

Monsieur Ibrahim en die blomme van die Koran is that story. Dawid Minnaar delivers a seamless performance as the adult Moses (Momo), recalling his childhood relationship with Monsieur Ibrahim and recounting all he learned throughout the time they knew each other. Their relationship grows into something wonderful, and it is a gorgeous story about a family-like love between two people who come from completely different worlds.

Monsieur Ibrahim as it was seen at the National Arts Festival is an adaptation from Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, a French novel and play written by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. Naomi Morgan, the translator of the production, did an excellent job in adapting the script for the Afrikaans language.

“It’s a very universal story, and I think that’s why [Naomi] thought it would be appropriate for Afrikaans,” said Philip Rademeyer, director of this production. “People relate to it. They get something out of it – the story and relationship between the two characters”.

I can vouch for what Rademeyer says. The story is captivating, and Minnaar will have you hanging onto every single word that he says. There are no costume changes or big stage props, just you and Minnaar. You forget about the people around you, you forget that the story he is telling is fiction, and you become engulfed in emotions that will bring tears to your eyes.

What else makes this performance so special? The fact that there is one man, a multitude of characters, and no kind of uncomfortable interruption between the characters he portrays.

“To stay with what the script has to offer you, and not to layer it with extraneous things – but to go with what you have there – and try to keep it simple,” said Minnaar. “I wanted to have an effortless kind of fluidity about it…so that you don’t have a rigid kind of separation of characters, but that the whole thing just [blends] from one thing to another.”

Monsieur Ibrahim was a truly mesmerising experience.

After this fantastic run at the National Arts Festival, Monsieur Ibrahim en die blomme van die Koran opens next week at the Vrystaat Kunstefees.

By Emily Stander
Photos by Ettioné Ferreira