February is the month of love. Perhaps it’s the highly-commercialised type that so many seem to object to but, in our capitalist society, it’s hard to imagine a concept that has not been thoroughly commercialised, and the same arguments could be – and, indeed, are – made about Christmas, Easter, Halloween, and a whole range of other holidays and celebrations. But there’s more to it. February is about more than red roses and chocolate hearts, an important truth I was reminded of by watching, of all things, a play titled ‘February 14th‘, written and directed by the up-and-coming South African writer, producer, director, and actor, Jeremeo le Cordeur.
Walking to the Artscape Arena Theatre on yet another one of those terribly windy nights that seem to have been haunting Cape Town’s summer vibe, I was pretty certain of what to expect from the play. It is described as depicting a series of vignettes of different characters’ experiences on Valentine’s Day, so, naturally, I thought it was about love and romance, red roses, and chocolate hearts (although, in the play, these were replaced by the exquisite Lindor chocolates). The first half of the play definitely conforms to the typical rom-com experience. Some of the characters experience the first tingling sensations of new love, others go through the difficulties of defining what love is, and others, again, suffer from the pain of lies and betrayals that love gone wrong may bring. There was laughter, smiles, joys, musical wonders (le Cordeur preforms a wonderful rendition of Noah Guthrie’s version of ‘Sexy and I Know It’. Check out Guthrie on YouTube), and tears as a series of scenarios passed by, removing the audience from the crazy beautiful world of Cape Town and placing them amidst a timeless exploration of love.
But, as the caption of the play – ‘A Love Story. More or Less …’ – suggests, love and romance is only part of it, and I was in for a tumultuous emotional ride when the play resumed after the intermission. In between all the fluffy romance, there is one story – that of Wayne and Elisabeth – that frames the play. Wayne is a young man dying of cancer, constantly begging his angel, Elisabeth, to grant him one more day so that he, too, may experience what love is. Of course, this is only revealed at the end, after the audience has already sat through Wayne’s many attempts to understand and experience love for himself. In one of the last scenes of the play, he cries out that all these people get the chance to experience love and throw that away, and he, someone who would love and treasure with all his heart, will never get the chance to do so. It is a heart-breaking scene, with Wayne, weak and frightened, clinging to his punching bag, a symbol of his struggle to fight on. As this scene played out, the rest of the theatre was cast in a deathly quiet. I had tears streaming down my face, tears of and for Wayne’s pain and desire to love, and I’m certain I was not the only one.
I left the theatre stunned, captivated, lost somewhere in this quiet moment of ‘oh my’. If the play was meant to make me think, it certainly succeeded. Perhaps there was a lesson to be learned – to treasure the loves we have, while we have them. Perhaps this may not necessarily be romantic love – we can love our friends, our family, or dogs, and some of us (myself included) can even have a splendid love affair with the gooey goodness of those Lindor chocolates handed out to the audience during the play. Perhaps the key is not what we love, but that we love, and to do so unabashedly and with the full force our human hearts allow us, because none of us know when that opportunity will be taken away. And here I was thinking that a commercialised Valentine’s Day play could do nothing but feed capitalist desires.