City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

The Sewing Machine Review

By Irene Brown - Posted on 03 August 2012

Sandra Prinsloo in The Sewing Machine
Show details
Wordsmith's Theatre Factory and Assembly
Running time: 
Rachelle Greeff (writer), Hennie van Greunen (director/translator), Jeanne Steenkamp (stage manager)
Sandra Prinsloo (Magdaleen)

Tailors have had a tendency to be men, but it is generally women who do the sewing at home; the making and the mending.  Sewing machines are thus intrinsically feminine.

Rachelle Greeff’s one woman play, based on one of her short stories and part of the 2012 Fringe South Africa Season, is set in the present day and in a retirement home in South Africa where 81 year old Magdaleen now lives.

Like the slow rolling out of a soft bale of cloth, Magdaleen’s story is revealed.  While it based in post-apartheid South Africa, and naturally touches on some of the realities of that past from the perspective of a white woman who had been a farmer’s wife during that period, the play’s universal message about old age and loneliness overrides this.The set is domestic with a sideboard holding family photos and a tea tray with a tea pot and china ‘fine enough to see your fingers through’.  There is an armchair with a phone table on one side and on the other, Magdaleen’s one remaining friend and ‘sister’, her sewing machine.  To gentle piano music, Magdaleen (Sandra Prinsloo) appears coiffed and wearing a Chanel style suit with one bandaged foot in an orthopaedic shoe. 

Through this rich and sometimes funny monologue, that is peppered with Afrikaans and broken by recorded voices - off of children and grandchildren, Prinsloo quietly holds the audience in the palm of her hand as she shares reminiscences from her young life: a time when things were certain, when ‘your body is not your own’, when there were things like doilies and bootees and when everything was made at home with the comfort of the singing and droning of her faithful machine a constant in the background. 

She is now facing change, loss and the reality of the smallness of her life, but recalls tenderly with the lovely words ‘orgasms and organza’ how the memory of touch and feeling remain in the hands and elsewhere even when the physical reality belies.

She is left behind, a stranger in her own land because her familiar values are now unacceptable.  She calls herself ‘an artefact without a museum’ as she reveals her situation at the last part of her life with clear eyed acceptance as her beloved ‘sister’, the sewing machine, is symbolically boxed.

This is an extraordinarily moving and affecting piece of theatre that is loaded with quiet strength in both the words and in the performance. A very human and a very female story.

Show times: 2 - 27 (not 13 & 20) August, 14.40

Tickets: £10 - £14