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The South Afreakins

Coghill Theatre, Whitianga

Monday, 25th November

Helene and Gordon are stuck in South Africa and in their same rut. One longs to get out and experience everything retirement has to offer, while one won’t leave his milk tart. When they finally emigrate to New Zealand, the result is heartbreaking and hilarious as they discover it’s hard work to find ‘home’.


A dark comedic solo show about leaving everything you’ve ever known and starting over again.


"It’s exciting to see the lives of older people celebrated onstage past the usual ‘Middle Aged Spread’ mid-life crisis fare, and Robyn Paterson’s The South Afreakins does just that. Helene and Gordon are South African, living in the country they love but living in fear. Helene wants to move to New Zealand, Gordon does not. But as we learn, Helene is a force to be reckoned with and emigrating presents itself as the only way the couple can enjoy their retirement.


What makes this all the more remarkable is that Helene and Gordon are both played by the same person. With a twist of her shoulders and using two spectacularly different voices, performer and writer Robyn Paterson has us truly believing there are two people on stage.


Helene and Gordon represent Paterson’s parents, and there is affection in every word and gesture. Watching her become two very distinct people is a joy. We are witnessing the work of a master observationalist – the way Gordon jerks his head up from the newspaper to talk to his wife, the way Helene puts on her hand cream – I’d bet you anything that’s exactly what Paterson’s parents do in real life.


There is humour, truth and darkness in The South Afreakins, reflecting the challenges and fears that face those who are tempted or often forced to leave their homeland for something better.


As the daughter of an immigrant, I know the feelings of detachment and wistful longing for home played out so well here. My grandmother never felt at home in New Zealand; while her children barely remember the England they left, she never fully felt that she’d found her place and that became more and more unbearable a she got older.


The South Afreakins tells a story familiar to many of us and the hard truths behind the decision to leave your homeland are sweetly masked in humour. For all of the differences Helene and Gordon find between themselves and their new countrymen, for the audience their relationship, their bickering, their behaviour is beautifully familiar." Reviewed by Sarah McCarthy, 10 May 2019

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