Whimsical play set in Platteland town

2010-04-01 00:00

THEATRE REVIEW

Miracle

Square Space Theatre

University of KwaZulu-Natal

Durban

THESE last ten days or so have seen the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s ­department of drama and performance studies collaborate in three productions: Frontlines and Blood Wedding with the Durban University of Technology, and now Miracle with the currently unchallenged multi-award-winning production company KickstArt.

By celebrated South African playwright Reza de Wet, Miracle is ­described as a “whimsical, wintery tale of the unexpected”. Set during the Great Depression (1936), it involves a down-at-heel troupe of actors who arrive at a remote Platteland town without the means to leave it. They take over a deconsecrated Catholic church and set it up for their performance of Everyman, only to discover from an unexpected source that they have serious competition with the ­circus being in town. Things tumble from mildly chaotic to frightening and they lose one of their members along the way.

Reza de Wet’s inspiration for the drama came from the miracle plays of the Middle Ages which were among the earliest formally developed plays in medieval Europe and focused on Bible stories.

With his usual efficiency and expertise, director Steven Stead has successfully steered his cast through what must have been a challenging and multilayered rehearsal process. Full of shifts in moods and tensions, the play moves from exquisitely ­tender moments to the full bellow of melodrama. Greg King has created a very effective set and Tina le Roux’s lighting is suitably moody.

Two UKZN drama students, Brett Collopy and Donna Steel, have the good fortune to make their professional debut in this production, cast alongside Frank Graham, Margaret Logan, Michael Gritten and Tamar Meskin. This kind of close association will be invaluable to the young actors who acquit themselves extremely well with sensitive and credible performances, their only failing being lack of projection. Margaret Logan and Frank Graham’s extensive stage experience means that every single word — no matter how quiet or subtle — is completely audible and their long-term association with radio ­drama means that they know exactly what to do with their voices.

The UKZN drama department should seriously consider bringing back stronger vocal training — this will considerably empower a student in whatever field he or she chooses to follow.

The roles are skilfully crafted, ­offering meaty text for dramatic ­actors and allowing for a wide range of emotions and strengths. Frank Graham’s scene towards the end when he “discovers” that a new ­“Artist” has been born, is beautifully played. Margaret Logan shines in the moments when her character loses its ditzy image and becomes genuinely caring. Michael Gritten’s emotional leave-taking which collapses into ­indecision was sensitively and skilfully handled while Tamar Meskin ­remains tightly controlled as the character demands, exuding a chilling element into the proceedings.

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