Undone is dense, tenacious and at times almost frightening. It is perhaps what can be described as Marmite theatre (other breakfast spreads are available): it will by no means appeal to everyone but for some - those who quite like feeling disturbed - it will really hit the spot.
Wessel Pretorius, writer and star of this one man show, presents the affecting story of ‘Boy’, opening his performance naked in a tin bath tub. Boy is born into a dysfunctional family consisting of an overbearing father, a disintegrating mother and an egocentric older brother. Each of these personas appear on cue from thin air at the twist of an imaginary lipstick case or the donning of a leather jacket. This is particularly impressive considering Pretorius is wearing only a pair of white pants. Even more impressive is the masterful depiction of the relationships through time, which manages ingeniously to make the piece’s lack of chronology a source of insight rather than confusion.
Undone has a poetry to it, both in its script and its physicality. For many, this is bewitching, but for others the interlaced sensuality, religion, and literary references may make the piece less accessible. It has, however, been well adapted for its new British audience. Produced in South Africa, Afrikaaner cultural heritage originally featured prominently; here, familiar British verse has been interjected successfully. This erudite element links in with the lyrical nature of Pretorius’s writing and forms one of many tiers on which he explores the psychological processes of the show’s family.
Ultimately, Pretorius’ stage presence is the factor which provides Undone’s main driving force. He makes the piece achingly, terrifyingly personal. Boy has a bitter, sarcastic voice; he speaks to the audience and produces the characters of his family to showcase his point. His story is something like a play within a play: Boy narrates himself, announces the acts, and even reads out the author’s notes. It feels wholly autobiographical and the effect is haunting. It was not until I sat down to write this that it even occurred to me that I might not have been told a true story: audience disbelief is not just suspended; it is murdered, buried, and forgotten about altogether.
One minor point is that the amount of swearing makes this PG rating absurd. If you think you can handle this, alongside an emotional rollercoaster, then you will love it.