Playwright honours women on stage

Playwright Peter Voges talks about women as the inspiration fopr his plays during Women's Month.

Women’s month has played heavily on Peter Voges’s mind and heart.

The 79-year-old Fish Hoek playwright has his eyes focused on two new pieces of work which are fresh from his pen and still “in script” at the Artscape Theatre. They will, he assures me, take the stage, when it is their time.

But it is women whose time Peter wants to see, arrive in all its glory.

It is women he wants to see, united and standing tall together.

He tells me the inspiration of his work One for the Road, which is the story of an abused woman. Its a story so often enacted it has become a stereotype, and this vexes Peter. It makes his eyes flash with defiance. It makes him angry.

And so he has cast on paper his version, his vision. He has re-written the narrative, pared the stereotype down, back to the individual woman who receives the blow by blow denigration, bearing the brunt of her husband’s bad day.

And then, he has re-imagined the ending. He has brought back that one unconquerable advantage that women have always had, the edge over their menfolk that Peter insists they have forgotten. Each other.

And in his play One for the Road, he arms his heroine with exactly that. He first gives her space to create the capacity to see things differently, and then, he brings three no-nonsense neighbours into her life, to stand solidly beside her in the final round.

He delivers his justice with comedic accuracy, and through the laughter, there’s space to breathe again, hope again, choose again.

There’s company, and unity with kin, again.

“I was invited to speak in Delft at a women’s day event. But I noticed something. All the while the speakers spoke, the women’s eyes slid to the side. I became so curious. I asked some of the women who were there what they day was about, and they couldn’t tell me. Not because they did not care. But because their attention was fixed on the food being prepared in the kitchen section. They were in survival mode. They were distracted by the basic element of being hungry. So many women live in survival mode,” he said.

At that same event he watched a middle-aged woman do a perfect hand-stand. “I asked her, Aunty, now why are you doing this? And she said to me, because this is my life. It is all, upside down.”

Peter wants to remind women of their choices, and the power in linking arms.

“Nothing can beat you or keep you down if you stay linked to your womenfolk. Friends, sisters, mothers, daughters, aunties, neighbours. Women use the collective power,” he says.

And with this, he implores neighbours, family members, friends… not to say “oh shame” and move on with their lives. “Oh shame never helped anyone,” Peter says.

“What does help? Visit. Clean the kitchen. Cook the children a meal. Sweep. Listen to them. Whatever it takes, so that when you leave, that woman feels loved. She feels cared for. She feels her worth, again. It is from that point, that she will make a new choice. A better choice.”

Peter learned young to listen. As a youngster he listened as artists shared their secret stories with his mother, as she tailored their theatre costumes, or as she fed them in the family home, far from the stage lights.

Now he is pouring onto fresh pages, into plays, the essence of what he has heard and seen. In the hopes that it will make enough difference to help. Even if its just one person.

Peter knows first hand the cruelty that can be handed out by others. He knows the silence it creates inside one, the withdrawal it can cause. And, he said, he also knows first hand the power of the spoken word, to transform one.

“As a young person I learned the piano, I learned to make sweet notes, singing notes, how to create dulcet tones. Now, I am hoping to make those sweet sounds, with my words,” he said.

Peter Voges turns 80 in October. His plays will be performed in due time at the Artscape Theatre. Watch this space for details.