The performance opens to a figure eerily adorned in a rose-embellished mask, a luscious pink rose plugged into her mouth like a pacifier. A ghostly monologue ensues, and so commences an hour thick with symbolic beauty, sadness, humour, and elemental healing.
An hour thick with symbolic beauty, sadness, humour, and elemental healing
Ameera Conrad, co-writer and one woman performer of the piece, enters stage introducing herself as a good catholic girl - ‘skirt to the knees and knees firmly closed’. She launches into a poignant, heart wrenching narration of the time leading up to, and after, the rape which changed her ‘on a molecular level’. Soil, earth and roses are a constant throughout the performance, as Conrad commences by planting roses in a raised tray. As her life spirals out of control, so too the rose petals are ripped apart, the soil cast wet and heavy over the stage. Later, it serves to ground her in memories of her Omi. And as she endeavours to heal her mind and body, so too does her garden develop strength and order.
There’s lots of humour interspersed in this piece, and Conrad’s delivery is exceptional as she presents as an easy going teen, keen to absorb every experience life has to offer - ‘YOLO - a post modernist Carpe Diem’. The juxtaposition of a composed, excitable character with the ugly, brutal and raw process of anger, resentment and indignant healing is a stark contrast which serves to further amplify the impact of this experience, and Conrad leads the audience through it with a hardy fortitude and energy.
Ameera Conrad and Kathleen Stephens teamed up to create this transformative piece in response to a young woman being raped and murdered in the Tokai forest. As Conrad struggles to reconcile her feelings of guilt, blame and personal responsibility, she examines the systemic societal structures which mean the bodies of women and girls are still not safe in this world. There’s also a thick irony that Conrad’s unnamed character is safe in her home town of South Africa, prevalent with rape - where she sleeps with the windows open to smell her Omi’s roses - yet is raped in London, a supposed metropolis of progression. This is further prounounced by the colonisation of her experience by the white gender studies college professor, who attributes all sexual assault to mens’ inability to control testosterone.
Her Omi once told her that once a flower was broken, it could never be put back together again. In this liminal piece, Conrad and Stephens show that whilst the flower may remain forever changed, growth is an inevitable constant.