The Beauty Of Incomplete Things

In writer-director Daniel Dercksen’s The Beauty of Incomplete Things, the lives of three men unite on a heartbreaking journey that is filled with pathos, humour and candid revelations. It celebrate the freedom of expression.

In The Beauty of Incomplete Things, the lives of three men unite on a heartbreaking journey that is filled with pathos, humor, and candid revelations.

Following the success of Yes, Masseur, which was produced by Pieter-Dirk Uys and David and Renaye Kramer at the Dockroad Theatre in 1996, The Beauty Of Incomplete Things enjoyed great success when it was performed at The Intimate Theatre in Cape Town (2013/14), and at the Joburg Theatre (2014).

The Beauty of Incomplete Things enjoyed its world premiere at The Intimate Theatre, 37 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town on January 28, 2014, and ran until February 16, 2014, and its original cast, Rowan Studti, Wojtek Lipinski and Andre Lombard re-united with writer-director Daniel Dercksen for a successful season in Johannesburg at the Joburg Theatre from July 17 to August 1, 2014.


“Dercksen’s style of writing is as such very attractive. There is a very peronal lyricism to be found…The Beauty of Incomplete Things is worth seeing for its best parts, its lingering moments where quality and craftmanship is obvious.”Paul Boekkooi, The Star Tonight

“This remarkable play is about inter-relationships and the complexities that arise over time between people. The cast have fulfilled writer-director Daniel Dercksen’s wish in conveying a deeply human and quintessential story about the frailties of our love lives.” Jason Fiddler, Mamba-online

“Dercksen has a striking way with words. The Beauty of Incomplete Things is a powerful and poignant piece…despite its sombre darkness, it offers great moments of humour..” Genevieve Viera, The Citizen

“As an audience, Dercksen challenges us to observe the traumas of intimacy, both physical and emotional. To push open the barriers of our mind and how we perceive love, identity… As the play progresses, Dercksen’s characters expand from 2D to multifaceted, complex beings. The blurred lines between friendship, attraction, power and love are sensitively explored through the contorting relationships between the three men. It has soul. Pain, confusion, infatuation and rage pulse through the air with tangible force. ” Mahala reviewer Ella Grimwade

“Old wounds are ripped open and profound secrets are shared in Daniel Dercksen’s The Beauty of Incomplete Things. Through candour and insight, the production investigates what happens when escorts and their clients mix business with pleasure,as well as what happens when our dreams become bigger than our reality. Under Dercksen’s direction, all three actors deliver multifaceted performances. No character has one layer alone and watching each piece of skin being stripped away until only their fragile selves remain makes for captivating theatre.” Sunday Independent reviewer Steyn du Toit

The Beauty of Incomplete Things Novel

The novelization of The Beauty Of Incomplete Things began in 2015 and will be completed in 2023 –  the novel is a fictional memoir inspired by the stageplays The Beauty of Incomplete Things, and Yes, Masseur.

In contrast to the play, the novel delves into David’s inner life, confronts the origin of his obsessive nature that began when he grew up in a Town Hall, and delivers a resolution that does not feature in the play, uncovering secrets.

“All the characters in this fictional memoir are based on people I’ve met on life’s journey, their names have been changed as I thought it rude to intrude upon private lives. Events have been spiced up for dramatic purposes as real-life is not always that exciting. The world of the story has also been coloured in with sharpened crayons. It’s a story that shows how love between two men are shaped by destiny. I apologise if you cannot find yourself in my story.  Also, I thought it important to include private letters in the addendum that will give you an opportunity to fully embrace The Beauty of Incomplete Things.” Daniel Dercksen

Here’s an excerpt from the opening chapter:

There is Beauty.

It can be complete.

Or incomplete.

It’s an excursion from one to the other.

I know that.

Ringing the brass bell at the red door of a quaint double-story house, I loose myself in my haunting reflection that glares at me from the diamond-shaped window in the centre of the door.  

The first draft of the manuscript of the novel has received favorable feedback:

“Thank you so much for the opportunity to read your novel ‘The Beauty of Incomplete Things.’ It blew me away. Your style of writing flows with a superb lyricism. As one gets into your multifaceted characters and they begin to peel the layers away it becomes a real page turner as tension, pain, obsession, confusion and tangible rage fly off the page as three flawed souls try to make sense of the blurred lines between friendship, client, physical attraction and love and the trauma that comes when fantasy overtakes reality. As secrets are revealed, amidst the torment and rage there are also real moments of humour and pathos.
Although it deals with a world I know very little about your poignant portrayal of inter-relationships and how the past can affect us both in our approach to our sexuality and our emotional needs applies to us all. Especially how we take past hurts and insecurities forward into our relationships.” Sandy Baker / Word Craft / Silver Moon Media Videographers

“I loved the book. It is a story most people can relate to – of love unreturned despite all your gallant efforts. The trauma and sadness carried by each of the characters is so close to home. We are all damaged in one way or another – some more than others. We should never intentionally destroy another life and should instead work to uplift those that need it most. Behind many a smile is a heart of sadness. Thank You for allowing me to read The Beauty of Incomplete Things.” Eleanor Momberg (Specialist Writer, DEFF and works for Department of Environment, South Africa and Freelance Journalist)

If any publishers are interested in reading the novel of The Beauty of Incomplete Things, kindly send us an email

In the play The Beauty Of Incomplete Things, Tommy (Rowan Studti), a studly straight trophy masseur becomes a pawn between two conflicted lovers, David (Wojtek Lipinski), a flamboyant and dramatic diva-worshipper, and Steve (Andre Lombard) his controlling lover. When David sneaks Tommy off to his cabin in the middle of the woods for his birthday weekend, David’s intimate and loaded birthday celebration is interrupted when Steve gatecrashes his fantasy. Fantasy and reality collide head-on in their brutal quest to find happiness. The truth surfaces and strips them bare, ultimately setting them free and releasing them from their humanity. What happens when you mix business and pleasure? What happens if obsessive love turns nasty? These questions unravel during the tense and heartbreaking journey that candidly explores the dark abyss of male sexuality at its most vulnerable’.

Rowan Studti as Tommy and Wojtek Lipinsky as David in the play The Beauty Of Incomplete Things

The Inspiration

One day in the early 90s in a South Africa that was on the brink of transformation, Daniel Dercksen visited a friend he hadn’t seen in years for tea at a quaint little cottage in Sea Point.

After the second cup of tea, when half-naked boys walked into the kitchen for their morning coffee, Daniel soon realised that he was sitting in one of the busiest male-to-male massage studios in Cape Town, something he had no knowledge of, except the stories he heard from friends whose fantasies were realised in these studios that were a popular past-time amusement park during those days and others who condemned the actions of the young men who sold their souls to the devil.

One thing that was absolutely clear was that Daniel found a story he had to write, and after befriending some of the young men who worked in the trade, and listening to their stories filled with lost hopes and soiled dreams, he knew that it was a story that needed to be told.

Most of the boys who worked at the massage studio were heterosexual and during a time of affirmative action, needed to feed their wives and children and found that the trade put food on their tables at home.

This resulted in a play Yes, Masseur, which explored the relationship between a straight male masseur and his client, and enjoyed a short but successful run in 1997 at at David and Renaye Kramer’s Dock Road Theatre at the Waterfront (now demolished, where the food market at the Red Shed is situated).

The character of the male masseur became an integral part of Daniel’s vivid imagination and the subject of another play that explored what happens when a masseur and a client cross the line and enter each other’s private lives.

This was the birth of Tommy, who was an amalgamation of a few young men who became Daniel’s close friends, and one who was executed with his co-workers at a renowned male-to-male massage studio in Cape Town in 2004.

For 15 years The Beauty of Incomplete Things went through a miraculous transformation, mutating into its final draft after countless rewrites, as well as six readings with actors throughout South Africa that helped shape its future.

Our first get-together at the Intimate Theatre in December 2013: At the back: Daniel Dercksen; front: Andre Lombard, Rowan Studti, and Wojtek Lipinski. © Daniel Dercksen

Statement from Daniel Dercksen

The Beauty of Incomplete Things is more than just a play, speaks to everyone, as its voice echoes the memories that feed our fantasies and the fears that prevent us from finding true happiness in a world that has lost control. On an emotional journey of love, wrath, and redemption, three men discover that there lies beauty in incomplete things.

It’s not an issue-play, but one that most definitely celebrates the frailty of humanity and digs deep into fractured relationships and the dark side of human nature. Despite its somber darkness, it also has some great humour, particularly when these three vibrant characters explode in a sea of raw emotions and kick into survival mode.

Filled with nostalgia, it celebrates a period of gay life in South Africa that now lives in the shadow of society, and pays homage to the boys who died senselessly in the Sizzler’s massacre.

It explores creative expression and the freedom of expression at its most extreme, shows that everything in life does not have to be perfect to be conventionally acknowledged.

It is in the flawed lives of our fragile existence, lost loves, and lonely survival, that the true beauty of our humanity surfaces.

The lives of three men unite on a heartbreaking journey that is filled with pathos, humor, and candid revelations.

The Beauty of Incomplete Things enjoyed its world premiere at The Intimate Theatre, 37 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town on January 28, 2014 and ran until February 16, 2014, and its original cast, Rowan Studti, Wojtek Lipinski and Andre Lombard re-united with writer-director Daniel Dercksen for a successful season in Johannesburg at the Joburg Theatre from July 17 to August 1, 2014.

Rowan Studti as Tommy in the play The Beauty Of Incomplete Things

“All three characters have dark alter egos from their tainted past, destroying the fantasy of their reality; this really challenges the actors to the extreme and will hopefully provoke the imagination of theatergoers. I wanted to create a conversation between the audience and the play. This active voyeurism will hopefully sparks an emotional and visceral engagement, and give audiences an opportunity to experience theatre in an extraordinary way.
The Beauty of Incomplete Things speaks to everyone, as its voice echoes the memories that feed our fantasies, and the fears that prevent us from finding true happiness in world that has lost control.” Daniel Dercksen

The Original Cast (2014)

Rowan Studti (Tommy) has pursued acting from the young age of six. His inclination to the craft of acting is intuitive and originates from a desire to reflect human behavior and interaction. He states, “acting is the only way I can reflect life back onto the audience as life moves too fast to take notice of what is really going on beneath the public persona…as I search for the character within myself I strive to reveal a part of who I truly am through letting the audience in.”

“I am only acting if I am solely listening to the other actor, the given circumstances, and responding to my natural impulses, here is where the character and a truthful performance are born.”

Playing Tommy: The Beauty of Incomplete Things deals with a subject matter, and a world, of which I hardly know much, and the character of Tommy seems far removed from my own day-to-day world.  It is a matter of stepping out of my comfort zone.  It is this very reason that draws me towards the story.  The very fact that a sense of fear comes over me in approaching the character and the work, is the exact reason why I chose not to shy away from it.   It is these kind of characters that makes one grow as an actor.  The psychology of the play and Tommy, is incredibly complex, which requires one to delve deep into oneself, become and exist honestly on the stage.  The challenge presents itself as big boots to full, but I am looking forward to being stretched. 

Rowan made his debut in a high school production of Footloose, which affirmed his choice to follow acting as his chosen career. He studied at the New York Film Academy and at the Actors’ Centre in San Francisco in 2008. Thereafter he enrolled at ACT Cape Town and graduated with a BA in Drama, Film, and Screenwriting from the University of Cape Town. It was at ACT that Rowan played the role of a hedonistic cowboy/rock star in Nicola Hanekom’s Tol(l). and he played in Chris Wear’s production of An Absolute Turkey. Rowan has also had a number of experiences working in film and television, working on a number of short films.  He had his television debut this year on an episode of Locked Up Abroad”, a crime investigation show on National Geographic, and will be seen as a Special Task Force Member in the upcoming South African TV series The Message. 

Wojtek Lipinski  (David) is a professional young artist who has recently entered the industry as a freelance actor. Wojtek started his career by doing school plays and also worked for an Artreach programme that did Shakespearean plays in order to raise funds for feeding the hungry. This made him decide to pursue a career in acting even though he never did drama as a subject or any specific training in this field. He decided to study drama at the University of Stellenbosch and obtained a high degree of training in voice, acting, and physical training. He starred in many theatre productions at the University’s H.B Thom Theatre through directors like Mareli Pretorius’s Charlotte’s Web, Antoinette Kellerman’s Baby and the Bath Water, Peter Krummick’s Brothers and Marthinus Basson’s reinterpretation of Romeo and Juliet. He graduated from the University of Stellenbosch with a BDrama Degree in 2012 with exceptional results, experience, and skills. Now as a freelance actor in the industry, he has recently done four international commercials, played an extra in the TV series Black Sails, and was part of the production the Unexpected Man.

On playing David: The Beauty of Incomplete Things is a play that shows a fractured relationship between three men. The vulnerability of how they can’t cope with their own insecurities in their relationships at the present moment due to certain circumstances that come from their past situations. This creates a beauty of taking for granted the small incomplete things in life which binds and enhances relationships in people’s lives. The character of David is a person who just loves himself too much which destroys the type of relationship he wants in his life. The play shows that he can’t grasp his own insecurities about what he wants, which is a real relationship with Tommy. He can’t get that because he has too much fear of letting go of his past where his father was not there being a real father to his son and even when he was he didn’t show any kind of affection toward David. He had to find out certain things about who he was by himself and his own sexuality. This has created a void in his life where he doesn’t want to be alone; that fear he is terrified of because he wants to feel loved and loved. It creates a type of sadness in him which turns to madness. The fantasy of being in love and being loved by Tommy is greater than his own reality. He in some way turns to his wine which is a metaphor for his escape from his real problems which he even justifies by having a Birthday party with just Tommy which suggests his flamboyant nature of having sex and doing whatever he wants to satisfy his own selfish desires. He is a character who the audience will love and hate all at the same time because he is a person who loves being “too much of a good thing [which] is good” (Liberace in Behind the Candelabra). 

Andre Lombard (Steve) He graduated with a BA(Drama) Hons from the University of Pretoria during which time he was awarded the Don Lamprecht Award for best student actor. After finishing his studies he was offered a full-time contract at the then PACOFS where acted in a wide variety of plays, children’s programs and musicals. He received a Vita Award for Best Production: Môre is ‘n Lang Dag and a Dalro award for his role in Somewhere on the Border. After he completed his military service in the SAAF he returned to freelance acting, appearing in various stage and TV productions and films. He also did dubbing and dubbing translations for the SABC. His voice work during this time included that of Wielie Walie’s “Sarel Seemonster”. Life’s footpath then led him into the financial industry, where he earned the title of Executive Healthcare Consultant, before moving to Hermanus where he got involved in various development theatre projects; directing, amongst others, Whale Music for the Whale Festival. When he moved to Cape Town, he was asked to teach as a substitute for two weeks at Constantia Waldorf School. He started out with two weeks and stayed for seven years teaching Dramatic Arts and English. He appeared in the short film Windstil and Urban Death at the Intimate Theatre and the upcoming Tannie dora goes Bos.

On playing Steve: Steve arrives uninvited at the cottage where David and Tommy spend the weekend in celebration of David’s birthday. He manipulates the situation to suit his own selfish needs. Lawrence is essentially a very lonely soul and is afraid of rejection. Because of his age, Lawrence has first-hand knowledge and experience of the gay culture as it evolved over the past few decades. This makes him cynical at times as he has a “been there; done that” attitude towards life. Lawrence is a complicated and multi-layered character which is any actor’s dream role. Preparing for the role is challenging. I have to dig deep into my own being to find feelings and emotions analogous to Lawrence’s character. But this is the adventure I embarked upon when I accepted the role and I find the process of discovering Lawrence, for the human being he is and getting under his skin, challenging and exciting at the same time.

Ending the season at the Joburg Theatre: Wojtek Lipinski, Rowan Studti, and Andre Lombard with Daniel Dercksen


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The play is now used as a template for The Drama Of Writing A Play course
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