World famous whodunnit brings its madness to the Catalina

2008-11-28 00:00

What sort of production would take Durban theatre guru Themi Venturas all the way to Washington just to learn how to stage it at the Catalina?

The answer is Shear Madness — one of theatre’s greatest success stories. It is the second longest-running play — after Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap — has been translated into 11 languages and has been seen by more than 9,5 million people.

Described as “an uproariously animated whodunit”, Shear Madness is set in a hair salon. For the first 30 minutes, the audience doesn’t realise that they are the eye witnesses of a murder. They are called in to examine clues, question the cast and solve the murder. Effectively, the audience helps craft the script and, as a result, the outcome is different every night.

“I have done a lot of work with audience participation, but this is not the kind that gets people up on the stage to make fools of themselves. It is more about the power of observation,” Venturas says, adding that the original was written 25 years ago as a psychodrama to teach students that things aren’t always as they seem.

In terms of the set and the action, this is a replica of the American play, but as soon as it gets to the interrogation, it is both South African and distinctly Durban, thanks to references to anything from newly named streets to political gaffes. Venturas was in America during the elections and learnt exactly how to incorporate rapidly changing current events into the script.

The hair studio is fully functional — actors have their hair done on stage every night. That meant running water and plugs for driers. The phone is a real one from which calls are made during the production.

Shear Madness stars Marc Kay, Daisy Spencer, Clare Mortimer, Michael Gritten, Dhaveshan Govender and Loyiso MacDonald. It runs at the Catalina until December 31. Tickets are R80.

Contact 031 305 6889/305 7612, or e-mail

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