The spotlight fell on the horrors of child abuse when Jan Groenewald relived his childhood experiences in a moving dramatisation of his sordid abuse story as an innocent 13-year-old boy.
Staged at the Foxwood Theatre in Houghton, Plum Tree, which is an adaptation of his original Afrikaans play, Pruimboom, he wrote in 2014, tells his own story and journey from a little boy that had dreams and ambitions of becoming a top barefoot athlete.
His dream was shattered by a sordid ordeal of abuse by a nefarious rich family friend of his parents who robbed him of his innocence, betrayed him and violated his manhood.
It all started as a 13-year-old boy, wide-eyed and innocent with his life ahead of him when he received a pen as a gift from a very influential man… and his whole life changed forever.
The pen rewrote his destiny of abuse and faced setbacks but tackled his challenges with a strong certainty that he will survive and make a difference in the world.
His mother, obsessed by the riches and influences of this man, never gave her son an ear when he tried to divulge his ordeal at the hands of this filthy rich man. She kept telling him to be loyal and obedient to his ‘abuser’ as he would mould him into a rich and influential person like himself.
Groenewald believes that ‘it takes tremendous strength to confront the demons of society, but sharing it in Plum Tree has brought healing to his scared upbringing’.
He wrote this story of his childhood life, Pruimboom, while receiving chemotherapy for cancer and celebrated his remarkable recovery by taking the play to South African festivals. In 2015, it was translated into English by Clive Rodel and two years later, Plum Tree premiered at the Foxwood Theatre.
It also enjoyed a run at Artscape in Cape Town before moving abroad to Edinburgh Festival Fringe and received critical acclaim and sympathy from his audience at the same time, for what they described as a ‘harrowing tale of his childhood life and told so brilliantly’.
“The play leaves one speechless at the harrowing tale of abuse the innocent child suffered at the hands of a rich b…d known only as Mister Plum and hence the Plum Tree,” was a further comment from his audience.
“The play left me determined to work even harder to produce more children stories to create awareness of the dangers and impact of such sordid acts perpetrated on our children by barbaric adults that the little ones tend to trust, believe and look up to,” said old hand of children’s theatrical work at the SABC, Magda van Biljon, a yesteryear actor, presenter and TV/film producer.