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AND … 5. 6,7 8! (article first published : 2007-04-22)

And … 5, 6, 7, 8! has just completed a run at Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf. This production has already been reviewed on these pages by Maurice Kort. While he justifiably gave it a good crit and spoke about it in depth, I just want to put in my tuppence-worth about a production that I believe has great potential and should be taken further afield.

And … 5, 6, 7, 8! is the first show to be presented by the new Section 21 Company, TheatreBiz (representing the Catalina Theatre and the Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre) – a production company of which the Durban theatre community has high hopes. It promises to present good dramatic theatre works and is now eligible to look for subsidies.

I urge any theatre-loving company out there to look kindly on their requests for financial support. It’s tough out there for actors and actresses and unless we get the public back into the theatres, we will lose even more performers to Johannesburg. Each year, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the Durban University of Technology turn out a new crop of performers but we seldom get to see their talents here before we lose them to Gauteng where they are able to survive on their talents.

Taking its title from the count-in during dance rehearsals by a choreographer or dance captain, And … 5, 6, 7, 8! is a new South African play written by Terry Davidoff and Steven Pillemer. The dialogue is crisp and racy, at times poignant but generally very amusing. Like Michael Frayn’s hugely successful Noises Off, And … 5, 6, 7, 8! allows us to see a production from front stage (albeit briefly) as well.

In this case, the show in question is a cabaret. Challenging the Catalina Theatre space to its ultimate degree, it’s a miniscule Sun City type dance extravaganza with feathered fans, nog al! The cast is excellent. As the tough dance captain, Janna Ramos Violante proudly reminds us that she started off her career as a dancer. We all know Darren King’s considerable dance talents and it was good to see that he seems to have put behind him the injuries he sustained a year or so ago and is once again on top form. Surprising us all with their capacity to hoof it with the best of them were Sean de Klerk, Sasha de Marigny and Kim Sansouccie, although on the night I saw the show her part was taken by Danielle Perlman.

Cara Markowitz’s set accurately depicts the chaos of the average dressing room in which the backstage personality clashes, hopes, fears and triumphs are played out. It’s all about reminding audiences that behind the dazzling smiles you see in performance is often pain, insecurity, personal loss and anguish. Costume changes are carried out at frenetic speed – I think Sean de Klerk changes his socks at least six times! When a member of the team doesn’t appear on cue, the highly disciplined troupe members keep their correct distances, the empty space between two dancers being a stark reminder that all is not well.

The show has a rock-solid creative team with direction by Themi Venturas, choreography and directorial assistance by Mark Hawkins and some great costumes by Kevin Ellis. I feel quite sure that this is not the last we have heard of And … 5, 6, 7, 8!, so if it comes your way, don’t miss it! – Caroline Smart




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