Dutch theatre maker Roelof Twijnstra gives an emotionally intimate account of his failed love affair with a young Zulu actress in his début novel ‘Zulu Crush’. Roelof was in Durban earlier this year and participated as a guest judge at the 2012 Musho Theatrical Festival of one-hander and two-hander plays. He is the initiator of the TWIST programme which encourages community theatre
‘True love is altruistic, a very individual emotion without benefits’
oelof Twijnstra begins his intriguing book with the painful scene that marks the end of the relationship he had thought would last a lifetime: the emotionally distant woman, her little boy with a broken leg and a backpack stuffed with toys, the icy weather and the desolation of the departure terminal all paint a symbolic picture of internal devastation.
Twijnstra is frank about the hurdles to be faced in this relationship: generation issues, ethnic issues, cultural issues, gender issues and status issues. A young Zulu woman, with a child from a previous relationship, captures the heart of an emotionally vulnerable older Dutch man. She has touched a nerve in his psyche and he is determined to do everything he can to bridge the gaps and create a cosy, loving environment in which they can all thrive.
His friends and his children from a previous marriage are sceptical; they imagine the worst case scenario; that Roel is being taken for a ride by Zandile. But the passion they feel for one another creates a rosy bubble in which all challenges can be met gracefully and willingly; the price paid for the happiness they enjoy. Zandile, a singer, dancer, actress and television star, is well-travelled and comes from a family that is both well-off and influential. Roel finds himself inviting her and her son, Thabo, to live with him in the Netherlands; a new life opens up for them all.
Twijnstra is a playwright and director and it is interesting to note how his skill and experience in creating theatre pieces works for him in the telling of his personal story. The scenes are set with appealing minimalism; the clutter exists circumstantially. As a result, the story has strong clean visuals, simple honest lines and full emotional range. The chapters are kept relatively short, driving to the heart of the matter.
He is not afraid of going into places that are psychologically revealing; his self-awareness is that of a mature man who has examined his personality, his background, his motivations, his soft-spots and his strengths; he knows himself. He is conscious enough to ‘aim for harmony and happiness and avoid chaos and tragedy’ yet the unrolling of the destiny of this love story proves that good intentions are simply not enough.
For Zandile begins to suffer from a psychosis not uncommon in immigrants; born of a subtle sense of isolation and rejection. From here, in spite of Twijnstra’s best efforts to salvage the relationship, their life together becomes truly challenging in ways they could not have imagined.
Although ‘Zulu Crush’ is written in the first person, Twijnstra is valiant in his awareness of the need to present the story with a degree of objectivity; the scenes he describes are unique to his experiences as a man passionate about his work, his woman and his art. It is a story that has a rich and diverse heritage as its backdrop, full of surprises and revelations.
‘Zulu Crush’ is a clean, compelling read; a slice of broken heart on a platter of contemporary social history.
Available from: www.roeltwijnstra.nl
Published by: International Theatre & Film Books, Amsterdam
ISBN 978 90 6403 781 8