The smaller the town, the kookier and more eccentric the characters who call it home – like Maanhaarsdrif, the teeny tiny itsy bitsy Karoo
Maanhaarsdrif is the kind of place you pass while driving through the Klein Karoo on a family road trip, where there’s a little padstal store on the side of the road selling dried fruit, ostrich-feather boas and “the best game biltong for as far as the eye can see”.
It’s also where you go to the local pub
So why are we here, exactly? There’s a giant observatory and space telescope on the outskirts of town that draws tourists from far and wide. And it’s based in reality, explains series creator Nicola Hanekom.
“The idea for Dwaalster sprang to mind 15 years ago when I travelled through the Hoeko Valley in Ladismith in the far western reaches of the Klein Karoo. Magical and mystical stories are part of this environment and I thought it could be a gripping theme for a drama series.”
Fun fact: the 64-antennae MeerKAT radio telescope array in the Karoo is one of the world’s biggest and most important telescopes, expected to lead ground-breaking research into dark matter.
It’s the characters that make Dwaalster so watchable
In the case of Dwaalster, the characters are based on people that Nicola knows – and you are guaranteed to spot people you know too as they play out their stories onscreen.
The themes are the same that you and I experience in our city life, just on a smaller and funnier scale because of the characters and their mannerisms.
Underlying themes include social integration, homosexuality and forbidden love, relationships that cross the colour barrier and even the controversial fracking industry that has been in the news for years.
And don’t forget the ghosts of the past who haunt the various Maanhaarsdrif mense! Here are some of the people you’ll meet there.
Frans Loots (Albert Maritz)
He’s a widower and retired school principal who loves playing putt-putt and rugby. He’s almost always wearing his Blue Bulls rugby jersey and horn-hat. But don’t think that he’s a macho man – he also sings opera, albeit after he’s got a couple of beers in the tank. His closest friend is also his favourite rugby enemy, town mayor Ivy, who is a Stormers supporter.
You’ll recognise Albert from his role as eccentric Bertho Lopez in drama series Vallei Van Sluiers (watch it here on Showmax).
Ivy van Graan (June van Merch)
Mayor Ivy wields power with an iron fist, but she’s also got a good heart and is super loyal to the point of fault. Don’t cross her though – you will come off second best, like Frans who regularly drowns his sorrows while Stormers fan Ivy is revelling in victory. Ivy has her secrets, but having her future read in a teacup doesn’t always leave her smiling.
June is most famous for her strong-character portrayal of Sara in drama series Sara Se Geheim (stream Seasons 1 and 2 on Showmax).
Annabel Loots (Tinarie van Wyk Loots)
Annabel is Frans’s driven and hard-working investigative journalist daughter who has returned home after leading a huge expose story in the big city.
She isn’t the only person who’s returned home – her doctor ex-boyfriend Stian (Jacques Bessinger) is also back, having taken over his late dad’s practice.
While dealing with matters of the heart and digging into Maanhaarsdrif’s past, Annabel also has to look Lettie (Joanie Combrink) in the eye every day despite being blamed for her son’s death. Tough!
Ragel-Lee Loots (Erica Wessels)
There’s a law-woman in town and she’s keeping an eye on things, literally. One-eyed copper Ragel-Lee keeps the criminals in jail and the traffic calm. She’s Annabel’s sister and is equally strict when it comes to her duties.
She’s the town’s moral compass and a pillar of strength for her dad Frans, although she’s socially awkward – think of Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon as a one-eyed traffic cop in a dress.
Gina Devine (Tarryn Wyngaard)
Gina is the deaf, roller-skating waitress at Maanhaarsdrif diner Die Piering. She’s an ex-biker who gave up her gang after passing through the little dorp – she was drawn in and just never left despite her regular-visiting, astrology-loving ex-boyfriend Charles’s (Albert Pretorius) best attempts to win her back.
Newcomer Tarryn can also be found playing Ilke Bastiaan in drama telenovela Arendsvlei, which comes to Showmax express from kykNET.
Fun fact: Tarryn isn’t deaf in real life and learned sign language for her Dwaalster role.