Theatre review: Slips

Posted: January 19, 2010 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews
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Written by:   Nicholas Ellenbogen
Directed by:   Andrew Brent
Cast:  Nicholas Ellenbogen, Liz Szymczak, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, Nomazulu Khumalo
Review:   Astrid Stark
First published in The Cape Times, 18 January ‘10

 

You will go batty over Slips.

You don’t have to be a cricket fan to enjoy Nicholas Ellenbogen’s revival of Slips, although it certainly can’t hurt to be somewhat familiar with the lingo and traditions that surround the good gentlemen’s game.

Most of the cricket comedy action takes place in what is fondly referred to as Old Fart’s Corner, the exclusive members’ stand where the snooty spectators never rise for the popular, and surely lower class, Mexican wave.

 Ellenbogen strolls onto stage and just looking at him has us in stitches.  Having written and cast himself into the role of an old fuddy duddy stodgy, white, cricket fan; he was made for this role.  With his pristine white cricket hat, old school tie, and ever-present binoculars, Ellenbogen’s character, Anthony “Lasher” Dawkins, and his darling wife Dotty, have been attending cricket at Newlands for as long as he can remember.  When Dotty suddenly passes on, the heartbroken Lasher gives her debenture seat back to the club, wondering who will take her place.  In rolls Eric ‘Wisdom’ Tshabala, played by Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, with his enormous girth, ill fitting pants and cellphone strapped to his ear. 

Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and Nicholas Ellenbogen in Slips by Mark Freeborough

The ensuing dialogue is a little predictable but still very funny.  Wisdom’s traditional Zulu culture is strongly juxtaposed to Lasher’s when he tries to explain the importance of polygamy to the conservative Lasher.   Naturally lasher is shocked but he also hangs on the every word that the very verbose Wisdom fires out.  To match Lasher’s hat, Wisdom soon pulls out his Makaraba hat and gives his vuvuzela a vicious blast that leads to the death of one of the very old white spectators, who appeared dead to begin with anyway, so we don’t spend too much time pondering his demise.   Lasher’s tries to explain 4-day cricket to Wisdom, who in turns ask where they will sleep during the evenings. One night after the pair had a bit too much of Wisdom’s Glenfiddich, Lasher is caught, on the pitch, with his pants down, wrestling Wisdom to the ground. 

When Wisdom goes off to Austria to join his second wife, he phones Lasher at the cricket and the full extent of the two men’s ever deepening friendship is revealed, and is played with utmost sincerity by both actors.  Lasher suggests Wisdom goes to see the Lipizzaner stallions in Vienna, but the home-sick Wisdom is at a loss as to what exactly that is.  “It’s like an Equestrian Pantsula,” Lasher explains.

An all too brief appearance is made by actress Liz Szymczak, who plays a trigger-happy ex-Rhodesian with a bit of cash to spare for Wisdom and Lasher’s proposed cricket business deal.  Her character is very funny and can stand a bit more exploration.

Nomazulu Khumalo does a fair job with her role as Wisdoms’ very modern daughter.  Khumalo is young and she seemed a little nervous especially when placed next to such veteran actors.  However her role the daughter who bridges not only the generation gap between herself and Lasher, as well as the catalyst for a new business partnership is convincing and honest.

Slips may be a roaring comedy, but underneath all the giggles is a heartfelt story that deals with grief, hope and great new beginnings.  Without meeting Wisdom, Lasher would have slowly withered away like the unfortunate vuvuzela victim.  Within Wisdom and his daughter, Lasher has found a new family, potential business deal and even a hint of romance with the gung-ho Bo Ely (Liz Szymczak).

Director Andrew Brent and Nicholas Ellenbogen both studied drama at the Barbican in London and have since worked together on numerous projects to include Brent directing no less than 7 of Ellenbogen’s hugely popular Raiders series.  The humour is always good during any production by Brent and Ellenbogen and whether you are a cricket fan or not, you will still find enough to giggle at during Slips.

Slips runs until January 30, in the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, at 7.30pm nightly. Ticket prices range from R90 to R130 and booking is through Computicket on 083 915 8000, online at http://www.computicket.co.za or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet countrywide. For discounted block, schools or corporate bookings, charities and fundraisers, contact Sharon on 021 680 3962 during office hours.

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