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Stage delights

Lifestyle Section - Editors Letter

  Tempestuous weather didn’t deter me from a couple of forays this past week, and my conclusion – after seeing some of our local talent up close – is that we are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to the arts on our doorstep.

I attended the opening night of Sleuth at the Playhouse in Somerset West last Thursday, with Christoan Smit and David Bullard, and it was such fun being taken along the many convolutions of the storyline.

Tempestuous weather didn’t deter me from a couple of forays this past week, and my conclusion – after seeing some of our local talent up close – is that we are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to the arts on our doorstep.

I attended the opening night of Sleuth at the Playhouse in Somerset West last Thursday, with Christoan Smit and David Bullard, and it was such fun being taken along the many convolutions of the storyline.

I didn’t know the plot (whereas some may have seen the film, and known what twists and turns to expect), and it was lovely to shelve my usual preoccupations and just enjoy the mental ride. The set was also fabulous, and although at one point the roof felt like it may lift off in the wind, the audience felt as ensconced as the two accomplished actors in the cosy living room on stage where the story unfolds.

The following night, I tackled the N2 (in rain and occasional hail) and headed to Muizenberg to watch the opening night of Michael Frayn’s award-winning play Benefactors, at the wonderfully intimate Masque Theatre (my first, and certainly not last, time there).

Somerset West (and Bolander) were well-represented, as two of the cast of four are from here; Melanie O’Conner and Norman McFarlane play Sheila and Colin Molyneux – the dispirited and dysfunctional couple who perpetually hang out at their long-suffering and far-sighted neighbours, David and Jane Kitzinger – played with aplomb by the affable Brian Notcutt, and Debi Hawkins – who moved to South Africa from Zimbabwe 10 years ago.

The accomplished director, Coleen van Staden, describes the story as a representation of unrealised dreams, loyalty, friendship, manipulation, misguided love and wasted good intentions – and this play, which was written almost 30 years ago, hasn’t dated at all.

It is always a little surreal, watching people you know transform themselves into a completely different character from the one you know to be true – and seeing Norman and Melanie put on the mantles of the Molyneux couple; Colin as a morose, cynical, tortured intellectual, who ends up in a Machiavellian conflict with his tolerant, impossibly forgiving and accommodating neighbours; and Shiela, who fluctuates between insipid apathy and ingratiating frenzy, typifying the “ditsy” woman who needs the constant safety and reassurance of the neighbour’s home and work infrastructure, before she can become more focused and functional, while in complete disregard for her own disintegrating home and family – it must be particularly challenging to play a role where you are clearly not going to “make friends and influence people”.

Brian really captures the character of David with his larger than life energy, his gruff warmth and sense of protectiveness – despite the vexations his neighbours cause him, both on a personal and professional level – such a pleasure to watch. His range of facial expressions (and accompanying body language) is extensive and a source of great amusement, in stark contrast to Colin’s laconic style and deadpan face, with simmering malcontent beneath his eyes.

Debi captures Jane’s no-nonsense and benevolent temperament perfectly, taking her husband’s (sometimes wildly-fluctuating) architectural visions in her unflappable style, scooping up her neighbours and their children under her wing and playing mother hen to all; and despite her protestations to the contrary, finding it impossible to turn her back on any suffering or need she encounters, and as a result taking on more and more people and projects with equanimity and an admirable lack of judgement.

The set is simply perfect for their comings and goings, which were performed seamlessly (and on one occasion when the rain thundered down fit to drown out all sound, during Melanie’s one soliloquy, she merely stepped to the edge of the stage and projected her voice to compensate).

Both Melanie and Debi are drama teachers, and Brian and Norman have also worked in all aspects of theatre, acting and directing.

I was surprised at how quick the journey there actually was, so don’t hesitate to cast your net wider to include The Masque in your theatre outings – Benefactors is on until Saturday August 2, including a matinee (call 021 788 1898021 788 1898  to book).

And the run for Sleuth also ends this weekend, at The Playhouse, so there’s time to take in a performance (or two).

Finally, on Sunday afternoon I headed to friend (from wine.co.za) Judy Brower’s house in Helder-vue, for my first experience of their quarterly Open Mic events, where local talent gathers on her stoep and in the garden to share music, poetry recitals, good food and wine.

I arrived in time to watch guitar teacher Kathy Ashwell singing some of the best folk ballades around, by Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian, which had me surreptitiously wiping away my tears at the beauty of the lyrics.

I can’t go into all the performances in this limited space, but suffice it to say, we have no shortage of exceptional talent in our midst.

Notably, the youngsters who played some blues and rock – Ulrich Beckering Vinckers, 18, on guitar, and his brother Finnian, 14, on drums, with Tony Lottering (I shan’t disclose his age, but let’s just say he’s certainly more of a veteran, and mentor), belting out the Clapton vocals and playing guitar.

They call themselves Justice Blues Band, and I’m going to be keeping my eye on them.

Judy’s son, Miles Kidson, also took to the stage with an Eagles classic, lovely.

And Jeff Groenewald, 19,  did a couple of side-splitting comedic songs, showing an extraordinary ability to mimic accents (and mannerisms).

Always such a privilege to watch live performances of theatre and music. Note to self: I really need to get out more...

Carolyn Frost – Editor

 

Written by Carolyn Frost You are reading Stage delights articles

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