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Powerful adaptation of true story lays bare SA rape culture

2015-07-04 11:34


I Have Life: Alison’s Journey 

Director: Maralin Vanrenen 

Actors: Suanne Braun, David de Beer, Chris van Rensburg 


Many readers will remember the story of Alison Botha, a Port Elizabethan woman who was brutally raped, disemboweled and had her throat cut in December 1994, exactly twenty years ago. 

Her attackers – Theuns Kruger and Frans du Toit – left her for dead on the side of the road, but she survived, and has since been telling her story of survival and triumph to the world. 

Botha’s story, based on the book by Marianne Tham, has now been turned into a powerful piece of theatre and had its National Arts Festival premiere last night. 

Director Maralin Vanrenen handled the story’s extremely sensitive material intelligently, and Suanne Braun, who plays Botha, must be lauded for delivering a powerful performance. 

How does a play depict rape, especially when it is accompanied by such savage violence? Vanrenen chose to go abstract with it, and though the audience is very aware of what is happening, there is respect for Botha and her story is managed with integrity. 

It is sad that, twenty years on, violence against women is as rampant as ever before. And more than that, that we still live in a culture where we teach women how to prevent rape, instead of teaching men not to rape. 

Vanrenen touches on these issues of victim blaming in the play. Botha’s character paces the stage, questioning whether she could have prevented what happened to her, or whether she was to blame. Behind her sit four men, four voices, spouting the usual rhetoric around rape: “but she was wearing a short skirt,” “but she was drunk”, “she was asking for it.” 

There is definitely a strong message about rape culture in this play, but over and above that, it is a story about hope and survival. It is a story about choosing life when it seems so much easier to give up. 

Botha’s story has inspired thousands of people since it hit the news, and this play breathes new life into it. Mark this one as one of your festival must-sees. 

» There will be four more screenings of I Have Life, on Friday July 3 at 2pm and 6pm and Saturday July 4, also at 2pm and 6pm

Read more on:    rape  |  grahamstown festival 2015
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