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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

DEVIL IN DISGUISE (article first published : 2008-09-15)

Elvis Presley fans will instantly recognise his hit song Devil in Disguise which has been used as the premise of this novel musical romp produced by ENACT (Ensemble of Artists Communicating through Theatre) and which features many of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, often being used to progress the story, written by veteran actor, writer and director, Vivian Moodley, who also directed the play.

The set, the entrance foyer to Hell, is appropriately a table on which is an antique telephone and a large sign with the instruction "Take a number and wait" and step seating with another sign "Wait here". The effect of the flames was excellent although the smoke machine underperformed magnificently.

Onto this bounces an ebullient Pranesh Maharaj as an unbelievably camp, giggling Demon, in fact too much so. His performance needs to be toned down as it would very much be a case of "little is better" which would make his character far more effective. He is the sole welcoming committee to Hell and his opening patter in which he instructs the masses which queues to join, viz. adulterers, murderers, politicians, lawyers etc., with no queue yet for teachers unless their ranks swell as a result of toy-toying. He also welcomes several famous personalities in a very funny script.

He is joined by Grim, i.e. the Grim Reaper, suitably robed in black and a deep sepulchral voice and a very effective mask, performed by Selvan "Tin Tin" Pillay. A hapless arrival in Hell falls onto the stage in the form of Deep, short for Deepnarain (Vivian Moodley) a standout performance throughout the play. When Pranesh Maharaj and Vivian Moodley each held the stage on their own they were very good but in their scenes together they were slow in reacting to each other's cues and the pace suffered. This might have been due to first night jitters and this aspect will no doubt improve.

It turns out that Deepnarain was shot by his girlfriend's husband. Enter the Devil, known as The Lahnee, a delightful Yasmin Seedat suitably attired in bright red. It emerges that she wishes to be a singer and had orchestrated the demise of Deepnarain so that he could coach her to enable her to fulfil her desires - does the title of the show "Devil in disguise" now make sense? The plan is that the Devil, Grim, Demon and Deepnarain, suitably disguised, will frequent a nightclub and observe the singer, a competent Patrick Carl Moodley whose white outfit is suitably Elvis. Backing tracks are used throughout the show and his strumming on the guitar was mimed. His actions could have been less static and more ala Elvis although later in the show when he was no longer encumbered by the guitar prop, his Elvis movements were very much improved. How about the odd smile, or even an Elvis grimace?

To progress the storyline and to accommodate many more Elvis hits, the singer's backing band, the Tremaloes, let him down and Demon (on bongo drums), Grim and Deep, all suitably disguised, fill in for the band. Selvan Pillay can certainly move and his "rubber legs" add much to the choreography. In addition, Yasmin Seedat takes on the role of Deep's wife in a cameo performance which gives him a chance to get answers to several questions. She needed to project her voice more in an otherwise nice performance.

Adding much to the production are the timeless Elvis Presley hits which include It's Now or Never, Return to Sender, Always on my Mind, Suspicion, Suspicious Mind, Are you Lonesome Tonight (Pranesh Maharaj), Heartbreak House, All Shook Up, Blue Suede Shoes and Jailhouse Rock (Yasmin Seedat) and of course Devil Woman and Devil in Disguise.

The concept of the story based on the song Devil in Disguise is very clever and has a huge potential for a very funny and clever show but several aspects need to be fleshed out and polished. There is a scene with Vivian Moodley as a waiter, in a badly fitted wig, and new actor Lovie Ramasrai as a drunk, which included the songs Hard Headed Woman and Hound Dog but added little to the storyline or action.

Despite these quibbles, the show with its clever concept has many funny lines and well-performed songs to offer a fun, amusing and entertaining show. It had enjoyed a very brief run at the Supernova Theatre in November last year and now offers those who missed the show then an opportunity to see it at the Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf, from September 10 to 21 at 20h00. Bookings via 031 305 6889 or www.strictlytickets.com at R65 with a buy-one-get-one-free on Tuesdays and Sundays and a Pensioner and Student discount of R30. The production is a good choice for a corporate production or fundraiser and is rated PG13. - Maurice Kort




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