Exceptional piece of theatre

2018-07-25 06:01
James Cairns stars in The Devil and Billy Markham.PHOTO: supplied

James Cairns stars in The Devil and Billy Markham.PHOTO: supplied

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RIVETING. It’s the word that perfectly sums up the performance James Cairns delivers in The Devil and Billy Markham.

I was fortunate to catch the show at last year’s Hilton Arts Festival and strongly recommend you book for the show at the Hilton College Theatre at 7 pm on July 27.

First released in Playboy magazine in 1979, The Devil and Billy Markham is an epic poem written by Shel Silverstein, a cartoonist at the magazine at the time. The poem was later adapted into a one-man play which premiered at the Lincoln Centre in New York in 1989.

Maritzburg College old boy Cairns (whose other hits include Three Little Pigs, Dirt, The Snow Goose, The Old Man and The Sea, El Blanco), won a Standard Bank Ovation
Award for his production of the play at the 2017 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Standing on a stage bare of everything except a wooden platform and some red lighting, he holds the audience in the palm of his hand for more than an hour.

Silverstein’s poem tells the tale of the night the Devil walked into a bar on Nashville’s famed Music Row looking for a victim.

Down on his luck and desperate, Billy Markham takes up the Devil’s challenge to play a game of dice.

Billy finds himself being taken on a whirlwind journey through Nashville, down to the depths of hell and up to heaven, meeting a host of quirky characters along the way.

Cairns’ ability to conjure every scene and paint a picture of every character, using nothing more than Silverstein’s dialogue and his exceptional physical theatre skills, make this a riveting experience. Directed by Jenine Collocott and presented by Contagious Theatre, The Devil and Billy Markham is a devilishly witty play. Tickets are R80 (R60 pupils, accompanying staff free). There will be a Q&A with Cairns after the show. Not suitable for those under 16.


Shel Silverstein penned Johnny Cash’s hit A Boy Named Sue.


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