By no means easy, but a classic well worth the effort

2011-09-05 00:00

SET against the backdrop of the mid to late 1980s, Saturday Night at the Palace opens with September (Bonginkhosi “Faca” Kulu), the newly promoted manager of Rocco’s Late Night roadhouse, about to close up for the night and head home to KwaZulu-Natal to see his wife and children.

It’s been two long years since he saw them last and he’s excited.

But before September can lock the doors two working-class white men — Vince (Michael Gritten) and Forsie (Clinton Small) — turn up and things rapidly go pear-shaped.

Unemployed, aggressive and drunk, Vince vents his frustration at being dropped from his football team and kicked out of his communal home — first on the hapless Forsie, and then on September.

His mood turns even more sour when he learns that September is the manager of the roadhouse, while he has no job. His response is to humiliate September, forcing him to serve them and then throwing the drinks in his face, stealing his keys and making a mess of the premises.

Forsie tries to intervene, but he is no match for Vince, that is until Vince announces he has slept with a girl that Forsie likes. The worm turns and the outcome is a tragedy for all concerned.

All three actors do a great job, with Gritten confronting head-on the racist character he plays, and Kulu playing September initially with quiet dignity, and then increasing desperation.

But for me the stand-out performance was delivered by Small. His portrayal of Forsie as a nerdy loser is perfectly delivered and makes use of little gestures to show his character’s inner turmoil about women and his fear at what Vince might do. On the surface Forsie seems more at ease with the changes happening around him, but when it comes to the crunch, he proves to be no different to his more overtly racist friend.

Saturday Night at the Palace is a South African classic, and while it is by no means the easiest show to watch, it’s well worth the effort.

Saturday Night at the Palace is at the Catalina Theatre in Wilson’s Wharf, Durban, until September 11. Tickets R75 (concessions R50, school performances R45). To book phone 031 305 6889. Grade 10 pupils are encouraged to see the play, which is a drama setwork in KwaZulu-Natal schools.

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