‘Parktown Prawn’ classic still a triumph of political theatre

2010-09-20 00:00

Review: The Ugly Noo Noo

ANDREW Buckland’s wonderful one-man play The Ugly Noo Noo was first staged in 1988 at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg — and it remains a triumph of comic physical and political theatre.

At face value the play tells the story of the encounter of a man called Hennie with an insect — the notorious Parktown prawn that terrorises the wealthy residents of this Johannesburg suburb.

But this prawn is actually doing its level best to convince the terrified man that he needs to join the Creatures Communalist Congress, which is trying to do battle with a prawn called Hennie Monster who is hell-bent on world domination. Unfortunately all Hennie the man wants to do is kill the messenger, literally.

When he realises his error, it’s too late and he is carried away by an army of prawns and sealed in a glass container. But other humans have heard the message and are ready, together with dogs, grasshoppers and sundry other creatures, to battle the dictator and his followers.

Buckland is at his comic best in this piece, which examines the relationship between fear and power and how during the dark days of South Africa’s past was used to manipulate people. It’s a masterpiece.

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