Archive for the ‘Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews’ Category

I have to confess that I am a Godfrey Johnson groupie. I follow him all over the Mother City whenever I can. I loved him in the little launderette/theatre, Tabula Rasa, his lovely voice mingling with the smell of fresh laundry. He was phenomenal at Beefcakes as he strutted his stuff in Tainted Love with Christine Weir. And that is just licking the tip of the iceberg.

His current show, Mr Johnson Presents, at the gorgeous Kalk Bay theatre certainly does not disappoint.  Johnson has this uncanny ability of mixing pathos with humour and a good dollop of sauciness within the change of a key on the piano – which by the way – he has mastered.  On the night we were there, we were treated to a mix of his own work as well as the work of renowned artists such as Prince, Leonard Cohen, and Pet Shop Boys. It is however his rendition of Brel’s, If You Go Away, that floors me every time. Johnson presents this song with so much heartbreaking emotion that it feels as if the audience is holding its breath throughout.  However it is mostly giggles and gags as he puts his own spin on classic songs. Kalk Bay theatre is perfect for this intimate production. It feels as if Johnson is sitting in your lounge and is playing just for you.  It makes for a wonderful night out at the theatre. In fact, go early to avoid the traffic and grab a bite at the harbour or at the theatre itself.Image

Some of his one man shows include, “Alice sal Regkom”,The Importance of Being Harnessed”,”Songs my Lover Forgot to Sing to Me”, “Flirting with Coward”,”Behind Every Man”,”Stories of Crime and Passion” and “The Shadow of Brel”.

Mr Johnson Presents is on at Kalk Bay Theatre until 26 October.

To book visit  www.kbt.co.za

Imagine seeing your children only once a year, or once a month. It used to be common practice in South Africa, for some it still is, to have your domestic servant live in your house or in a tiny little room at the back of the house for the better part of the month or year. She did everything, including raising your children like her own. It was ‘normal’ to see a black woman with a white baby strapped to her back hanging up the washing, or doing the ironing. What she could not do is raise her own children. The job, zeitgeist, and long-distances did not allow that.

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Pic by Ella Nahmedova

Creator and director of A Woman in Waiting, Yaël Farber, aptly describe these women as stoic; “they seemed to have the waiting thread knitted inextricably into the fabric of their souls.”  He goes on to say, “women have always been the filters for a society: the vessels through which the pain of a community flows.” A Woman in Waiting tells the story of one such woman, Thembi Mtshali-Jones.

And between this accomplished actress, the director and all the designers of the production, this woman’s heartbreaking story springs to life. Mtshali-Jones has a long and impressive record as television, film and stage actress.  And she can sing. Beautifully. She has recorded several albums. She uses all her talents to bring this stoic woman’s story to us.  To see her longing for her child as she cares for the madam’s little one is just tragic and indicative of cruel times. The first 50 minutes of the play is mesmerizing. Clever props assist Mtshali-Jones’ storytelling as she herself effortlessly slips in and out of the various characters. She is incredible as she transforms herself into a little girl. It is flawless up to the final few minutes where the story, for me, became a little too self-indulgent. However for the most part, it is a magical piece of theatre making and a provocative story that has to be told and heard. It is beautifully written with great sensitivity and the evocative stage lighting enhances the performance.

A Woman in Waiting is on at the Baxter Theatre until Saturday.

Still one of my favourite off the wall musicals, this reincarnation of The Rocky Horror Show doesn’t disappoint, and it even turns the raunchiness, mayhem and giggles up a couple notches. It has been 40 years since the production opened for the first time but the themes of blossoming sexuality, lust, betrayal, sexual identity and anti-establishment are still relevant today. Toss in a good dollop of writer Richard O’Brien’sImage fascination with science fiction and B Horror movies, an excellent and passionate cast and wicked stage and lighting design, and you are in for one helluva fabulous rollercoaster ride.

The costumes are deliciously saucy and you can see designer Penny Simpson was having a blast. Apart from a wickedly funny story line and some unforgettable characters, the music, for me, is what truly sets this piece of theatre apart.  And every self-respecting Rocky fan was singing along. With such a large talented cast and crew it seems unfair to single anyone out but I am going to have to admit that Andrew Laubscher’s Riff Raff looked fantastic and he simply became his eccentric character. Jenny Stead makes a perfect Janet – with the original Janet, Susan Sarandon, as role model – it can’t be easy. For me however there can only be one Frank-N-Furter and Tim Curry’s is a tough act to follow. I would recommend getting a bunch of your best mates together, dress up – do it! – it’s so much more fun, and get your audience participation packet for a hilariously sexy night out.

The all South African cast includes Paul du Toit as Brad, Jenny Stead as Janet, Pierre Van Heerden as Dr. Scott & Eddie, Brendan Van Rhyn as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Andrew Laubscher as Riff Raff, Daneel Van Der Walt as Magenta, Lucy Tops as the Usherette, Dominique as Columbia, newcomer Shaun Smit as Rocky and Adrian Galley as The Narrator.  Jenna Robinson Child, Angela Inglis, Zolani Shangase and Tarquinn Whitebooi are the ensemble and understudy cast.

The production is directed by Fleur Du Cap Best Director Nominee Matthew Wild Designers on the production are Tina Driedijk and Penny Simpson with Musical Supervision by Charl-Johan Lingenfelder Musical Direction by Stefan Lombard who will be assisted by Roelof Coelyn. Choreography is by Louisa Talbot and High School Musical, soloist for The Cape Dance Company and Bovim Ballet. Alex Tops is the Resident Director.

On at The Fugard Theatre.

Astrid Stark

I am not sure what is going on. It is nearly winter solstice, rainy season, in Cape Town and we are experiencing ridiculously balmy sunshine days and clear skies. So it was an obvious decision to take a Sunday trip out to the gorgeous seaside village of Kalk Bay.

I have eaten my way through Kalk Bay, several times, so I got pretty excited about trying out the newly opened tapas bar and restaurant, next to the Olympic Bakery, in the main road. Even more so when I discovered La Parada’s chef, Eva de Jesús Galán, hails from Spain and has worked in a 3 star Michelin Restaurant.  ImageImage

Expectations were high. And we were not disappointed. The restaurant is small and cosy with long gorgeous wooden tables that open up the possibility of sharing your tapas or drinks with complete strangers, which inevitably happens. It overlooks the ocean and other daytrippers stroll by your window as you leisurely nibble your way through the menu. Complimentary tapas are offered with your drinks. Eva’s marinated olives are delicious and spicy.

My Cousin of Awesomeness, who has been working in the industry for years and who has an appetite for life and food bar none, almost platzed when he sampled the fresh Serrano ham. He actually stopped talking for almost three minutes which is highly unusual. The Serrano ham is cured locally by a fellow called Lucas Jamon. True story. Jamon of course being the Spanish word for ham. Talk about being born into your destiny.

I love the yellowtail with salsa verde. Yellowtail is not my favourite fish as it can be quite wild and strong in taste but the team cooked this up to perfection, the salsa tames the fish somewhat and they grilled it to juicy perfection. The Cousin had the Grilled Lamb with honey mustard, garlic and rosemary and said it was utterly delicious but a little bit too much to finish. Hard to believe, anyway I am sure the car guard loved it. The crouquetas de jamon and prawn croquettes are creamy and utterly delicious. I can’t imagine a better way than to sample your way through an entire menu on a gorgeous sunny day. Kalk Bay and tapas are the perfect partners. The wine list has something for everyone and it is very reasonably priced.  I was a little surprised to find only one dessert on the menu. But as soon as I tried the rice pudding, I understood, why. “There can only be one,” as the immortal Highlander once said before beheading his enemy. Or to quote The Cousin, “The most spectacular explosion of flavours in this perfectly prepared rice pud. Best I have ever had. BRAVA!”

La Parada tapas bar and restaurant is the newest addition to the Harbour House family. It trades Monday through Sunday from 12pm to late (the kitchen closes at 10pm). The coffee brand used is Tribe.   021.7883992 (no reservations) @taste_kalkbay

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Sexy, dirty, malicious, gentle, conniving, beautiful and tragically flawed almost sums up the complex personalities in this flirty production with a big heart.

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I have always enjoyed Kander and Ebb’s music and lyrics, but it’s the storyline that still fascinates me after all these years.

At Berlin’s bohemian Kit Kat Club the opportunistic performers find it never too late in the evening to turn a trick and make a buck. They girls are saucy and the men sleek and sly as the Emcee shrieks, “the audience is beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful!” The champagne and money flows and the nights are silky and sensual. The music is loud. Life is great. But something is very wrong. The Weimar Republic is crumbling. The Nazi movement is bubbling up like a stinking mud that will eventually swallow all their hopes and dreams. A couple’s long-awaited love is ripped apart. A girl falls from grace and a writer’s fantasies lies in tatters.  Sounds a bit heavy but it’s mostly fun and games.

Samantha Peo is the beautiful boozy Kit Kat Club singer, Sally Bowles, who falls in and out of mens’ beds as she nurtures her fear of her fading looks in a world where it is truly everything to a working girl. Peo is grace and tragedy personified and she is perfect for this role. She portrays Bowles’ multi-faceted character skilfully. And she can sing.

I last saw her in the production of Chicago for which she won a Naledi. She is a skilled performer and singer. Her beautiful figure and face is utilised to its fullest glory by costume designer, Neil Stuart-Harris. Her outfit changes are plentiful and each one more rich and silky and gorgeous to look at. In fact the entire cast looks delicious in satin, blood-red silks, black lace, virginal white bloomers, and lots of leather and straps and stockings.

All except for Bryan Hiles, Clifford Bradshaw, the hapless writer is dressed in a dull as dishwater suit describing his character’s state of mind and position in life. He is poor, shy and nervous, until he meets the characters of the Cabaret.  Hiles’ performance is great and he brings a bit of stability to Peo’s outrageous character, but not for long.

The Emcee is all leather and whips, oozing sexuality, leery sneers and cynicism: wonderfully portrayed by Sascha Halbhuber.

The sub-plot involving a love affair between Fräulein Schneider, Charon Williams-Ros, an older woman who runs the boarding house that Cliff and Sally live in, and Herr Schultz, Peter Court, an elderly Jewish fruit shop owner, threatens to steal the limelight, this despite their minor roles and far more subdued characters. Both portray the doomed relationship with heartbreaking honesty.  Court’s, It Couldn’t Please Me More, or as I call it, The Pineapple Song, is so utterly charming in that lovely gentlemanly way of long ago.  Williams-Ros too has a beautiful voice.

Lyle Buxton as the German, who later reveals himself as a wicked Nazi, is very engaging and a reminder of how charismatic the Nazi’s were in order to convince the country that they only want what is best for all. And he can sing!

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Kate Normington as the conniving but cute prostitute that loves to tease Fräulein Schneider is fun to watch.

The song-and-dance routine with a girl in a gorilla suit, If You Could See Her.’ is funny and touching as it concludes with a strong message, ‘if you could see her through my eyes… she wouldn’t look Jewish at all’.

Then there is the dirty, sexy, raunchy Kit Kat girls whom you just can’t take your eyes from.

And the live orchestra truly is just the cherry on top of a rambunctious and highly entertaining show.

A criticism would be that at times the cast were perhaps directed, or felt influenced, to turn up the snarls and ugly side of their personalities. At times this leads to peculiar and ugly sneers that continue for just a little too long. It is understandable that this is done to reveal the ugliness lurking beneath the surface, however this at times feels overly exploited, and over the top. Even when Peo sang the much-awaited Cabaret, it felt just a little over-dramatised.

The final rendition of Willkommen is loud and wonderful and despite it being quite a long production I felt reluctant to leave the seedy underbelly of the Kit Kat Club.  I highly recommend this if you need a break from reality and if you’re in the mood for a spectacularly entertaining visual and aural extravaganza.

Bookings are through  www.computicket.com.

CABARET, Directed by Steven Stead. Musical Direction by Evan Roberts and Justin Southey. Set Design by Greg King. Costume Design by Neil Stuart-Harris. Choreography by Janine Bennewith. Lighting Design by Tina le Roux. Sound by Mark Malherbe. Starring Sascha Halbhuber, Bryan Hiles, Samantha Peo, Charon Williams-Ros, Peter Court, Lyle Buxton, Kate Normington, Duane Alexander, Reg Hart and Malan le Roux. Marleé van de Merwe, Jodie Renouf, Londiwe Dhlomo, Suzzi Swannepoel and Carmen Pretorius. At Theatre on the bay until 23 September or 6 October at varied times.   Review by ASTRID STARK

A Physical and philosophical exploration of existentialism.

This adaption of J.M Coetzee’s novel is a visual and cerebral feast from the beginning to its heartbreaking end. As it is the work of a Nobel Prize winner and directed by an award-wining director, my expectations were perhaps unrealistically high, however this powerful piece expertly delivered by a phenomenal cast, certainly did not disappoint.

The story is set in an imaginary place only referred to as the Empire. To those who live inside the Empire this seems to be the last vestige of the ‘so-called’ civilization with the Barbarians waiting at the door.  The setting is an abstract figment of Coezee’s fertile imagination. It reminds me of Waiting for Godot in as much as both locations appear to be surreal, timeless, ageless and almost afloat only as a philosophical exploration of existentialism and a struggle with the definition of morality.

Grant Swanby is the Empire’s magistrate who watches as his outpost is slowly destroyed by fear and paranoia fuelled by the truly evil Colonel, expertly played by Nicholas Pauling. The Colonel believes that the Barbarians are about to attack and he sets out on a counter attack.  Here it all becomes a little abstract as we are left to wonder if the Barbarians actually exist or if they are the embodiment of an internal struggle between the ‘civilization as we know it, and a primal call to return to the land and a simpler truer life.

The concept of the Barbarians physically arrives in the form of a captured Barbarian girl, Chuma Sopotela.  The girl is tortured in a heart-breaking exquisitely depicted scene and she is left blind and crippled.  I can never get enough of watching Sopotela perform. She is simply magic. Her performances are understated and utterly believable.

Grant Swanby, Chuma Sopotela in Waiting for the Barbarians, pic by Rodger Bosch

Sopotela’s arrival and torture is the catalyst that takes us to the second half of the play. Swanby’s character in truly spectacular form complete falls apart both physically and mentally. He decides to look after the Barbarian girl in and is tormented by his constant sexual fantasies, desire and his struggle with morality.

He often visits a prostitute, Chi Mhendes.  Swanby and Mhendes’ performances are perfectly played out against each other. He brings to the stage a wealth of experience and a superbly controlled style whereas Mhendes is younger and less controlled which she uses with great effect. Her performance is raw and very real and you can’t take your eyes off her.

Swanby’s character decides to return the Barbarian girl to her people and together they undertake an epic journey. Upon his return he is thrown in jail, tortured and humiliated, for deserting his post and fraternizing with the enemy.

Swanby’s deterioration and psychological struggle in the second half is powerful and expertly performed.  More themes such as colonialism, and the very the nature of beauty and love are explored. It is a multi-layered, complex piece that should have you mulling over it long after curtain call.

Owen Manamela-Mogane, Alistair Moulton Black, Ruben Engel and Anele Situlweni all bring to the play equal amounts of passion and excellence.

We are spoiled in South Africa to have some of the most incredible set designers.  However, Craig Leo has taken this design to another level entirely. By his imagination he has brought to life this mythical otherworld, the wastelands and the prostitute’s room. I will say no more so as not to spoil the magic. It simply has to be seen to be believed. The costume design is also by Craig Leo. I found the accompanying music at times quite distracting, threatening to drown out the dialogue, and perhaps the first half was a little slow to get off the ground, other than that I cannot have enough praise for such a perfectly executed play.

The multiple award-winning director Alexandre Marine, recipient of the Distinguished Artist of Russia award, has directed more than 70 productions all over the world and he brings to the play a very keen eye and a wealth of experience.

The play is set to go to Montreal for a run and I would venture a guess that it will completely blow the Canadians away and that there are a couple of awards awaiting this piece.

First Published in The Sunday Independent, 26 August 2012

Waiting for the Barbarians carries an age restriction of 14 years. The play runs until 1 September at 7pm nightly. Booking is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.co.za or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet.

The End

 

So the Blue Iris’ run has been extended to 4 August.  Not surprising really as Athol Fugard has once again let loose his imagination and finely tuned craft with his usual fervour and skill.

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As the sun dries up the Karoo landscape and the lack of food and water kills every living creature around them, a small family slowly falls apart along with the landscape.  It is a very tragic story virtually from the get go. You can almost see the husband and wife’s love and compassion for each other slowly seep into the dry soil and eventually slip into the cracks. More tragic is that whilst this is happening there is love and hope blossoming around them but they fail to see it as they are too wrapped up in their own misery. The metaphors are ample and beautiful.

The final scene is not going to see you joyfully bopping out of the theatre or even leave you with a trace of optimism.  However, as always with Fugard, you are left with a lot to mull over.  Lee-Ann van Rooi’s character offers a fresh new perspective on the typical Karoo family unit.  Graham Weir is every bit the tortured and remorseful farmer. Only Claire Berlein’s brief ghostly appearance seems a bit discombobulated to me. Perhaps that is the idea.  However, her monologue does not feel as if it seamlessly slides into the rest of the play.  And then there is the appearance of the Blue Iris. It becomes quite a strong character in the play.

Blue Iris’ set design sets a brooding tone to the events that are playing out on stage.  A lovely, thought provoking piece, although for me it is not quite Fugard’s strongest production. But then he has set the bar very high by penning masterworks such as, Statements after an Arrest under the Immorality Act, Master Harold…and the Boys, and my personal favourite, The Captain’s Tiger performed beautifully as Die Kaptein se Tier.

The Blue Iris is directed by Janice Honeyman and features Claire Berlein, Graham Weir and Lee-Ann van Rooi. Pusetso Tshibedi is the Assistant Director, with lighting design by Mannie Manim, set design by Dicky Longhurst and costume design by Birrie le Roux.

It will be at The Market Theatre in Johannesburg from 21 August to 7 October 2012.
Tickets for The Blue Iris playing at the Fugard Studio Theatre range from R110 to http://www.thefugard.com