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The idea of an elderly white South African couple making a new home in New Zealand offers an unexpected angle on migration. And while avoiding the end-of-empire bleakness of a related play, such as Staying On, there's a razor-sharp edge to the comic observations in Robyn Paterson’s snappy solo show about the older generations losing their roots.

Gordon, a man of few words, has just retired, prompting dippy spouse Helene to dream of leaving their homeland. Without the constraints of offspring or work, South Africa now appears remote and hostile as the couple face growing older. Tales from neighbours of recalcitrant maids, burglaries and attacks add to the unease. And so Helene persuades an unconvinced Gordon that they’ll be happier in New Zealand.

The scenes that transpire as the couple adapt to their new life veer from comic to absurd to achingly poignant. Spot-on observations focus on gentle quirks and wisely avoid full blown parody, meaning that it all somehow seems natural; strangely, you don't feel sorry for the couple. They are prepared to unlearn things like not fearing black people and to learn to cook and clean for themselves. It's not an easy process.

Paterson creates utterly convincing characters with a deft physicality that plunges them into double Skype conversations and the awkwardness of dealing with racism while sitting in the centre seat in the plane.

For its bittersweet message that even ingrained identities can adapt and evolve, The South Afreakins more than does the job. It would be good now to see a linked workshop or Q&A. Or even a Part II.

Spot-on observation and a snappy script combine to create a bittersweet portrait

Reviewer: Nick Awde

British Theatre Guide

Robyn Paterson’s gentle one-woman social comedy The South Afreakins takes us to the home of the squabbling couple Helene and Gordon.

Helene has had enough of South Africa. She thinks her maid may be stealing from her and claims the woman is probably hooked up with the local drug dealers.

"The whole country is broken," she declares, referring to unspecified social unrest and corrupt politicians. That is why they should move to New Zealand.

Gordon is retired and more content with his life, but even he gets jumpy when he hears a noise on the roof.

Soon they are both on the plane to New Zealand. As a black person passes Helene’s seat, she clutches her bag to her chest and asks if they can move to some other part of the plane. He suspects her of being prejudiced against non whites and says so. In response she points out that she simply wanted to move away from a nearby child and asks if he is accusing her of kiddism.

The couple clearly care for each other in a gentle fractious way and at least for Gordon are no better off in the New Zealand retirement home that Helene insists on calling a gated community.

Robyn Paterson plays both characters, switching easily and convincingly both in voice and physical appearance.

The show doesn’t explore any social issues or attempt any in-depth character development but it does give us a gently humorous story about an affectionate older South African couple.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna
Date of Review: August 2016

Rating: 8.5 of out 10

When you don’t feel safe in the area you have lived virtually all your life, do you try to change your location and begin again, be a stranger in another country, or do you try and change yourself, to try and feel the revolution that is going on around you and go with the flow? Either way you might lose something of yourself, something that makes you, you and it is not something you can ever regain.

The heartbreak of prising yourself away from your home, your memories, your friends, is no easy thing to do; if there is even one little thing holding you in that place then where you go to will not be the same. It is a premise that is performed with great facial agility and dexterity of voice by Robyn Paterson in the Edinburgh Fringe play The South Afreakins. A play which deals with two retired people who find that their lives in the African country has changed over the years and whilst the husband can still live with his lot, the thought of golf and being near his dead son more an overriding need than moving away.

It is a question that many retired people find themselves asking when they believe there may be more to life than memories, the urge to either start anew or escape the change that is always inevitable when a town or a city becomes something out of the ordinary to them. It is a question that Robyn Paterson delivers with genuine style and care, that she is able to switch with ease and perfect timing between the two voices, the masculine and female dominance, is entertaining and unblemished.

Whilst it is always a thrill to run away and start again, The South Afreakins shows just what can happen if the reason why you run is only of fear and not because of adventure, then to want to return home is always going to be option that will live in your heart.

A class play, one in which the audience are received as neighbours and friends and who see up close the eyes of the two characters in the actor’s vision and who cannot help but feel the sorrow, frustration and love in each. A determined play, Ms. Paterson is on fire in her portrayal.

Reviewer: Ian D Hall
Date of Review: 14th August 2016
Rating: 8.5 of out 10

Rating: 4.8 Stars

The South Afreakins is a duologue performed as a monologue, a two-hander expertly performed by a single actor. And, my word, it’s really very good indeed.

Robyn Paterson is a playwright and actor, and she’s clearly talented in both fields. This piece, inspired by her parents’ immigration from South Africa to New Zealand, is all about displacement and belonging, and the difficult relationship so many immigrants have with ‘home’ (is it where you live or where you’re from, where you fall in love or where you lose someone?). We see Gordon and Helene, newly retired, scared by the violence erupting in South Africa, and keen to start a new life elsewhere. New Zealand appeals to Helene far more than to Gordon; he wants to stay where his roots are. But Helene refuses to live in fear; she knows she’ll be poorer in New Zealand – no servants for her there! – but she wants to live a peaceful life. And Gordon loves her, of course he does, and so he goes along.

Paterson switches effortlessly between characters; a simple shift in the body language, a tilt of the head or a shrug of the shoulders, and we know exactly who she is supposed to be. It’s captivating; we are completely drawn into their story, and our emotions are wrapped up in theirs.

It seems a simple tale, but it covers a lot. There’s a lightness of touch which means that, although it’s not the focus of the piece, Helene’s instinctive racism is exposed, as well as her wish to deny it, even to herself. We know that the violence that frightens Helene is that of the oppressed rising up against the oppressor, and we know that Helene represents the oppressor here. But she is just a woman, living the life she was born into, coping, like we all cope, with the cards we are dealt.

It’s a subtle, thought-provoking piece, that has us laughing and then stops us short. I highly recommend you catch it while you can. It’s only here in Edinburgh for three more days!

Reviewer: Susan Singfield
Date of Review: 25th August 2016
Rating: 4.8 Stars


Robyn Paterson gives a tour de force performance in this one hour play. Playing both the parts of South African husband and wife Helene and Gordon, she flits between the scatty Helene and the stolid Gordon with remarkable ease (the scene when they are fighting over the duvet in bed is really amusing). Gordon’s retirement spurs Helene to look for a new life in New Zealand to get away from living constantly in fear. She drags the reluctant Gordon with her, and we see how the pair adapt to their new lifestyle given that they no longer have a maid and now have to look after themselves. Although Helene settles in quickly, George takes longer to shake off his ties to South Africa. Ultimately we see that home is indeed where the heart is.

Although a comedy the play has bittersweet moments throughout and you cannot help but be moved by the ending. Much of the humour of this play is generated by Robyn’s performance and she is also able to convey the deep love the characters feel for each other. She is a talent to watch and I can’t wait to see her next project.

Reviewer: Rona
Date of Review: 19th August 2016

Impi Theatre Company presents…

The South Afreakins

The South Afreakins @spotlites @edfringe

book tickets for edinburgh fringe festival

Previews: Thurs 4th - Sat 6th Aug
Sun 7th - Sun 28th August 2016

2:00pm (1 hour)

From New Zealand

Helene and Gordon are stuck in South Africa and in their same rut.
One longs to get out and experience everything retirement has to offer, while one won’t leave his milk tart.
When they finally immigrate to New Zealand, the result is heartbreaking and hilarious as they discover it’s hard work to find ‘home’.

A dark comedic solo show about leaving everything you’ve ever known and starting over again.

Written and performed by Robyn Paterson.

'A flawless performance' (
'The script cuts deep to the bone' (

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Previews Thurs 4th - Sat 6th: £3

£8 (£6 Concession) (£20 family of 4)

Group discount: 10% off for groups of 10+
2for1 on Mon 8th & Tues 9th

Friends of Fringe: 2 for 1 anytime – only available from Fringe Box Office

book tickets for edinburgh fringe festival


Venue 278. 22-26 George Street. EH2 2EP
Venue Box Office: 0131 240 2784

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Show Status: south afreakins professional theatre tourready @spotlites @edfringe
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