Tonight – Long, lonely road is less daunting with a friend

The circumstances are familiar. Two women meet when the one attempts to help the other after her room has been ransacked in their block of flats.

They have little but their loneliness in common, but that is enough to form a bond of friendship that will change both their lives.

Rosa is an old inhabitant of London Road. She isn’t ageing well and with both her children out of the country – her daughter is living in Israel and her son has emigrated to Australia – she has no one looking out for her or adding tenderness to her last years.

Stella is much younger and an illegal immigrant from Nigeria who makes a living by selling drugs to well-heeled clients. Hers is a flimsy existence, but one she clings to because she cannot return home to her errant husband. He has already damaged her for life.

These two lonely souls strike up an unlikely friendship as they watch out for one another and keep one another company.

Both the playwright and the director have cleverly used all the stereotypical themes, but avoid playing the expected hand.

Stringing together a handful of snapshot moments, the characters are allowed to breathe and develop their own rhythms which gives an unusual exuberance to the play.

From xenophobia to displacement, ageing and Alzheimer’s, Aids and recreational drugs, the changing neighbourhood that used to be home, from slums to property booms, all are thrown into the mix without lingering and rehashing familiar arguments yet painting a very particular South African story.

It is the two women and the way they view the world and dance through their days that becomes the heart and soul of the play. That and the extraordinary performances, especially of Scott who has the more showy part.

Scott has assembled a lost soul that gladly reaches to anyone out there with such aplomb, one immediately takes her to heart. Her speech patterns and quirky movements become part of Rosa’s being as she toddles around her life and that of Stella’s in a most endearing fashion. She has no one who can say goodbye or even know that they have to.

“They think I’m going to be old forever,” she says heartbreakingly of her children.

Stella is there to listen and as such, Makhutshi has a much harder route to travel to find a way to climb under the skin of her character, but she does with an exterior harshness that turns mushy when her friend is in trouble.

It is in their reaching out that the two women touch their audience.

It is an intensely sad story, yet told with great tenderness and joy as the women find solace in reaching out and discovering the friendship of the other.

– Diane de Beer