The spice of life

2011-01-25 00:00

Review: Spice ‘n Stuff

Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf, Durban


WITH Spice ’n Stuff, Ashwin Singh has created a theatrical work which captures a community trying to deal with a changing world.

That world is Durban’s colourful Grey Street, where long-standing traders are finding it harder and harder to make a living, a situation fuelled by the increasing number of stores being run by Chinese and Pakistani immigrants and a rising high crime rate.

Among those struggling to make a living is Rita (the wonderful Shika Budhoo).

Her store is something of an institution in Grey Street and Rita herself is a friendly soul who tries to help those in need — from cheerful street trader Thulani (Ntando Mncube), who needs a safe place to store his wares at night, to Pakistani trader Shahid (Ashwin Singh), who finds himself a target of a police raid and hijackers who shoot his wife.

The audience learns that Rita gave up a job as a primary school teacher to help her late husband, Sanjeev, realise his dream of running his own store, and kept it going after his death to support herself and her son, Vijay (Rory Booth), a trainee lawyer.

But when Rita is targeted by a thief who steals some of her legendary spices, it starts a train of events which results in her revealing a painful secret. It’s a scene so raw in emotion that you could have heard a pin drop in the Catalina on Saturday night.

Spice ‘n Stuff is deftly directed by Themi Venturas, who succeeds in drawing wonderful performances from the cast of six. Budhoo’s performance is subtle, funny — and a reminder, if one was needed, of just what a consummate actress she is.

Booth and Mncube both give brilliant performances, as do Singh and Kajal Maharaj, who plays the dual roles of Aunty, the resident Grey Street busybody, and Rita’s friend Rani, an aspiring actress.

But, aside from Budhoo, the actor who captured my attention was Dhaveshan Govender, who plays the dual roles of Rita’s bitter and vengeful nephew, Ajith, and the slightly seedy, but good-hearted, Sagren, who sells dodgy gear to make a living. His versatility was remarkable and the confrontation scene he has with Rita, in the role of Ajith, is sensational.

Spice ‘n Stuff is a superb blend of comedy and drama and a truly moving portrait of a place and its people. Catch it if you can at the Catalina Theatre before the run ends on January 30.

Tickets are R65. To book phone 031 305 6889 or book online at

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