One-woman comedy riot

2014-12-17 00:00

AFTER seeing Shona Johnson perform in Animal Tails, ­playwright and director Clinton Marius was determined to work with the young actress.

Their first project together was in Marius’s hugely successful production The Fantastical Flea Circus. “She did really well and the kids loved her,” said Marius, who was born and raised in Maritzburg.

“You can be as talented as anything, but if you are not loved by the audience, if you don’t have them eating out of your hand, then you’ll never be truly successful. Shona has that quality ... and I really wanted to write for her.”

Marius was also keen to explore new voices in his writing and thought that it would be interesting to do a piece that used her background and the people who know and love her.

“I wanted to break into the coloured consciousness and I also wanted to write something a bit saucy,” he said.

“I’ve done a lot of children’s plays which can be a bit confining, and writing Lollipop Lane can also be a bit of a tricky dance. So, I thought I would try something daring, colourful ... not vulgar, but spicy.”

What he created was B!#ch Stole My Doek, which is at the Catalina Theatre at Wilson’s Wharf in Durban until December 21.

Set in Wentworth, the play ­centres on Salome, a woman who believes her neighbour, Chelsea, has stolen her doek and is deliberately trying to provoke her by not returning it. The play is hilarious to watch, but also has a sobering message: you should never judge by appearance alone.

Johnson — whose stage credits include The Wheel, The Credit Crunch Christmas, Animal Tails 1 & 2, It’s All Fright by Me, PopCom, Journeying Home, Reality Bytes and Consenting Silence — was thrilled and slightly daunted to be taking to the stage on her own for the first time.

“It’s challenging doing a one-woman show,” she said.

“In Beyond the Big Bangs [Ashwin Singh’s play that she appeared in at the Playhouse] I had 35 minutes on my own and that was nerve-wracking enough. But when Clinton came over and asked me to do this, I thought, ‘Why not?’.

“It’s going to be challenging on the voice and energy-wise, but it’s also a lot of fun and I know that the audience is going to enjoy it.”

Asked where her inspiration for Salome came from, Johnson laughed and said: “She is all the aunties I have ever known, rolled into one. I see her in so many different people.”

The actress — who is also a regular in the Catalina’s improv comedy show called What Kind? — is loving having the chance to play a character from her community.

“It’s really nice to play people I know and to tell the stories of my aunties, my cousins,” she said.

“I’m usually the observer watching them and laughing, but now the roles will be reversed.”

Performances of B!#ch Stole My Doek are at 7.30 pm from Wednesday to Saturday, and Sunday at 2.30 pm. Tickets are R100 at ­Computicket, Shoprite and Checkers stores or at the Catalina Theatre box office on the night if seats are available.

• Running in tandem with B!#ch Stole My Doek under the banner Bruinous Back-to-Back, is Hamish Kyd’s comedy one-hander ­Knowing You ... Knowing Me. The show has performances from Wednesday to Saturday at 9 pm and Sunday at 4 pm. Tickets are R100 at Computicket.

One of 2014’s top shows

Clinton Marius.

PHOTO: file

Review: ‘B!#ch Stole My Doek’

Catalina Theatre, Durban

ON a stage bare except for a washing line, a few items of clothing and a washing basket, Shona Johnson effortlessly holds the attention of the audience in the one-woman show B!#ch Stole My Doek.

She plays Salome, mom to 15-year-old Laverne and 12-year-old Travis, and wife to Dennis.

She is busy having a good old gossip with one of her neighbours. She’s filling her in on what’s been going on with the area’s newest resident, Chelsea Fynn.

Salome reveals that she is convinced Chelsea has stolen her doek, a green and polka-dotted number she treasures. Why, asks her friend? Well it’s simply because when she put her laundry out the doek was there alongside Chelsea’s very skimpy underwear, but it was gone when she went to get it later. So was the underwear.

Salome confronts Chelsea and demands her property be returned. It’s the start of a war which escalates over the space of three days, ending with a “classic coloured confrontation” involving shouting loudly, waving fingers and eventually hairpulling and scratching.

Salome also ropes in her children to spy on her neighbour, even getting Travis to steal her post. She learns that Chelsea is married, although no one has seen a husband around. It’s a catalyst which sets in motion a violent confrontation which her husband Dennis gets drawn into.

Johnson does an incredible job drawing each of the characters. Each is fully formed and not simply a caricature, which could so easily be the case.

But what makes this piece work so well is Johnson herself. Her warmth and engagement with the audience is magical to watch and be a part of.

B!#ch Stole My Doek is one of my theatre picks of 2014 and I recommend you get down to the Catalina to watch it.

Estelle Sinkins

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