Shows making a big impact

2011-01-20 00:00

From Bush To Country

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen Pietermaritzburg’s Arifani Moyo perform on two different occasions, and was impressed with his talent both times. In his new one-man play, From Bush To Country, he plays a historian in Zimbabwe who feels at odds with his new country, and is in search of a meaning to his life and a cure for his depression.

His desperation leads him to visit his grandmother, who advises him to seek counsel from the ancestors. Sceptical, he nevertheless decides to drink the potion she has made, and finds himself on a journey through Zimbabwe’s history — from its earliest peoples, through Great Zimbabwe, the Ndebele period, the Rhodesian war and modern Zimbabwe. Along the way he shares the bodies of different people and learns from them.

The play, which is directed by William le Cordeur, is both a lament for the wasted promise of Zimbabwe and a plea for its leaders not to keep making the same mistakes as their predecessors. By turns funny and poignant, it’s a wonderful new work, which I hope will be seen on more stages around the province.

 

Paperboy

Grant Jacobs, the author and star of Paperboy, is one of the hardest working young actors in Durban. When he’s not starring in productions like Peter Pan, the musical and The Man from La Mancha, he’s treading the boards with his friend and collaborator Rory Booth in the Bob and Rob children’s shows, and performing in his own work.

I was fortunate enough to see My Name is Lucky, a charming piece of physical theatre about hopes and dreams, that he produced last year. Paperboy, which is directed by Liam Magner, continues that theme.

The play tells the story of Bobby Jones, a young man who delivers papers to help his father, who is in a wheelchair, to keep a roof over their heads.

Bobby is alternatively pitied and bullied by people in his community, many of whom believe he is on a road to nowhere. But nothing — not even a disaster involving an urn full of ashes — can stop him dreaming of making it as an actor/secret agent, winning the girl of his dreams Tracy Summers, and meeting the woman he believes is his mother, the actress Suzie Samuels.

Paperboy makes clever use of very simple props, has a host of interesting characters, a lot of humour, and with a little bit more polish will be a fantastic piece of theatre.

 

Crush-Hopper

I loved every minute of this beautiful one-woman show and my advice is that if it comes to a theatre near you, don’t miss seeing it.

Mandisa Haarhoff’s very personal tale begins with her playing with a white, blonde-haired doll, learning to speak pure Afrikaans and dreaming of marrying a white farmer. She’s uncomfortable in her coloured skin and wants nothing more than to impress her first crush, Wendall Paul, the blue-eyed, blond-haired boy at her Somerset-East school.

Later she gets the chance to study in Port Elizabeth when her aunt invites her to stay. But she soon discovers that her aunt’s promises were empty and that she’s nothing more than a skivvy, there to cook and clean the house and work in a shop.

Her crushes on boys now become an escape from her harsh reality, but also help her to embrace her “Xhosa-ness”.

Crush-hopper is the story of a girl seeking her identity and place in the world, and of the way in which men and women play the game of relationships.

As for its writer and star, Haarhof — who currently calls Pietermaritzburg home — is captivating on stage and fully deserved both her standing ovation and the Musho Audience Award for best play. Superb.

 

The Swansong of Norrie Da Silva

Belinda Henwood’s new play is a poignant look at the frailty and loneliness of old age, of wasted opportunities and a life halted. Like Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, Norrie was left at the altar as a 16-year-old bride after she lost the child, Georgie Jnr, that she was carrying.

Few people in the old-age home she lives in know her secret pain — they simply believe she’s a widow and that her Georgie died many years ago.

But Norrie has actually been searching for her lost love — and as she does so she confides in Olly, her umbrella, and the audience about what it’s like living in the cloistered environs of the home.

Simple props and subtle lighting helped convey the mood of this poignant and very well-acted work. Unfortunately, there were a few mike problems, which meant some of the dialogue was missed.

 

Men’s Room

Mary Steward is a Musho festival favourite and having seen a couple of her comedies I’m not surprised that she walked off with the Sulliman Award.

Her latest show is a look at men and boys, and what women know about them.

The differences between the sexes, she reveals, seem to be set in stone from an early age — starting with the desire to play with cars and drink bubblegum milkshake (it was blue), to an obsession with balls of every kind and the need to man the braai.

Watching this with my sister on Sunday, we couldn’t help laughing out loud and comparing what Mary was saying with our own experiences.

It was one of the best hours I’ve spent in a theatre and a show which I hope gets a wider audience this year.

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