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Sophie Joans’s one-woman volcano

Even in a theatre packed with millennials, whose creativity and freedom as a generation takes the concept of a ‘motley crew’ to artistic heights, Sophie Joans’s one-woman show, Île (pronounced: ‘i-ll’), kept us riveted to her on a bare stage.

On a night where the crowd could easily have upstaged the performer, Joans commanded attention in a way that seemed to belie her age and experience. 

Truth be told, though, Joans might seem like a sweet young thing to those of us who have seen her ‘come up’ through the Alexander Bar and as a very convincing Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream at Maynardville earlier this year, but this is definitely not her first rodeo. 

Île scooped a Gold Standard Bank Ovation at National Arts Festival 2022 and Joans was nominated for Best Actress at Woordfees 2022 as well as for the Fleur de Cap for Best Performance in a One-person Show, Revue, or Cabaret. 

After a short run at the Baxter (until May 13), she is taking her one-woman volcano of a show back to the National Arts Festival in Makhanda and then on to […insert drum roll here please …] the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Joans’s very physical performance impresses as she tells her coming-of-age story, which takes place in her mother’s homeland of Mauritius, through a number of hilarious, poignant and absurd vignettes. Somehow she evokes a steamy and often bizarre setting using just two wooden boxes on an otherwise bare stage.

Sophie Joans evokes a steamy and often bizarre setting using just two wooden boxes on an otherwise bare stage Photographs: Maggie Gericke

Joans occupies the stage in a way that is so compelling and comfortable that she keeps us watching, smiling even, as she recounts tales of a revolting childish prank and awkward moments that would normally make us want to turn away.

The writing is slick and funny, with a very satisfying circularity to all the plots and subplots. Unlike the family represented on stage in all its messy intertwined madness, we are left thinking that everything somehow makes sense and there are no loose ends. 

Written and performed by Sophie Joans, this lovely, crazy romp of a play is very deftly directed by Rob van Vuuren, another of Call Off The Search’s favourite Makhanda veterans.

Also, it was fabulous to see the Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter full of young people! Go see it, take your millennials.

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