In one of the towns there was a roller-skating rink he calls the Slab of Intrigue. It was only a cafe with a stretch of cement, he says, but on Saturday evenings they played music, "not loud enough to upset the minister, just loud enough to attract awakening hormones from every block".
Only a few pale measles from the balding glitterball shimmered on the cafe wall. "A single wire with yellowish light bulbs lit the Slab. No beauty, no glory ... but here drama lurked and plots were hatched."
He was in the thrall of the touring theatre groups, the tired old divas and scuzzy revues that passed through. "These tacky circuses with one thin elephant and a lion whose legs won't work. And you'd go just for the smell of popcorn."
Nataniël, it is clear, was deeply, mortally struck by what Jean Cocteau named the "red and gold disease", the devotion to theatre.
Too soon, he ends this captivating story. Halfway through high school, before university, before his start on the stage, when he would make the scenery himself as if he was back in his grandfather's workshop.
Just as it began, so the book closes with an image of Nataniël sitting. Once again, it is an acute moment of self-awareness. He was at last coming into his own, musically, physically, intellectually. There was a new English teacher, "high cheekbones, square jaw, thick hair like a dubbed movie". He looks up at the man. "For now I remain sitting. My legs stretched out, my jacket open, my chin raised ... I'm giving you a moment. Look at me."
•'Look At Me: Recollections of a Childhood' (available in Afrikaans as 'Kyk na my') is published by Human & Rousseau, R280.