News: Successful opening of Frisian play in Ontario

Article by Tom Bijvoet
Freark Smink and Klaasje Postma rehearse the play in Woodstock, Ontario. (Photo: David Lelieveld)

Freark Smink and Klaasje Postma rehearse the play in Woodstock, Ontario. (Photo: David Lelieveld)

Pier21’s play Ja-Mei-My, which loosely translates to ‘Yeah, it’s me’ is a portrayal of the relationships between family members of different generations. Lighthearted, but not without several deeply moving emotional moments, the play centers around late middle-aged Klaasje and her ninety-six year old mother, who lives in a retirement home. Her mother phones Klaasje at least three or four times daily. As she picks up she steadfastly answers her cellphone with the words ‘Ja-mei-my’.

The play was written by acting couple Klaasje Postma and Freark Smink, who based the entire text on their own experiences. When I spoke to Postma after the premiere in Woodstock on September 19th and she referred to a particular anecdote that had been recounted on stage I said: “so that really happened?” Her somewhat bemused response, twinkle in her eye, was: “it all really happened!” It is not surprising then that despite the abundant humor in the piece, it rings entirely true. Anyone who has had to care for elderly parents, anyone who has had to deal with adult children will instantly recognize the strength of the characterizations in the play.  Postma’s intimate connection with the characters she portrays (after all, she plays herself and her mother) makes the performance particularly powerful. Postma and Smink, both accomplished actors, switch characters entirely credibly in mid-sentence throughout the piece.

Apart from the relationship between Klaasje and her mother, the spousal relationship between Klaasje and Freark, and their place as a couple within the wider family, supplies a side-story with its own tensions and comedic moments. Klaasje takes us through the post-war history of her household, with some magnificently rendered period impressions of the fifties and sixties. Especially poignant are the memories of her father, who died when Klaasje was a child. Another highlight of the show is the scene in which Smink and Postma each play their own elderly mothers, talking to each other.

The play is written and performed in Frisian and it is a rare treat to hear this beautiful language on stage in Canada. But audiences should not be discouraged from attending the play if they do not understand the language. Using a special technique, subtitles are projected above the stage. The language and the Frisian setting of the play may be very specific, but the subject matter it portrays and the emotions it evokes are universal.

Anyone living in southern Ontario who has a chance to see the play should try to make it to one of the remaining venues to experience this delightful two-hander. Check for dates, times and venues.

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Posted by on Sep 21 2014. Filed under Arts, Language, Literature, Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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