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

A DOCTOR IN SPITE OF HIMSELF (article first published : 2004-05-30)

A lazy layabout of a woodcutter abuses his wife. One day, she decides she’s had enough and decides to turn the tables on him. She persuades the unsuspecting servants of a local nobleman, who are looking for a doctor to heal their master’s daughter, that her Sganaralle is the man they need.

She warns them, however, that he is somewhat touched, hard of hearing and may protest that he is not a doctor. The best way to get him to admit to the fact is to speak loudly and then beat him up. Sounds a bit far-fetched? Well, this is classic writer, Moliere, speaking in his comedy A Doctor in Spite of Himself which was written in the 17th century.

Directed by Robin Singh, A Doctor in Spite of Himself is running at the Courtyard Theatre with a cast of students drawn from the drama studies department of the Durban Institute of Technology.

Moliere makes his usual caustic comment about doctors in this play and so logic needs to be suspended and the bizarre situations accepted for their face value. What Moliere does require from his actors, though, is a fairly slick and crisp humorous presentation and this wasn’t quite pulled off tonight. However, as the play “settles in”, I have no doubt that the comedy “business” will become less laboured as it tightens up and achieves more sparkle.

It is great to see Robin Singh back on the local theatre scene – we lost him to the TV series Generations for several years! He has drawn good performances from his cast and I was most impressed with Tommy Kyd who handles the part Sganaralle very well. However, he must curb his tendency to talk to the “wings” (side wall) in the earlier scenes as this effectively absorbs his voice.

Thabani Zuma put in a consistently focused and humorous performance as Lucas and Zeblon Ngobese made a dignified and imposing Geronte. While only appearing briefly as the neighbour in the opening scene, Vukile Mavuya shows a flair for comedy. Looking like stray Hobbits, Ace Mbolekwa and Blair Magubane as the peasant Thiault and his son were an absolute delight.

The rest of the cast is made up of Nomathamsanqa Sinqe (who must slow her delivery as her dialogue is often unintelligible); Eugene Ngcobo, Sithandiwe Mazubane, Carla Grove and Sandile Makhoba who alternates with Michael Luthuli.

The stage is completely bare, barring a cane couch in Acts 2 and 3. I do feel a little effort could have been made for a more visually attractive setting.

A Doctor In Spite of Himselfruns without an interval at the Courtyard Theatre, DIT, Mansfield Road, from May 29 to June 5 nightly at 19h00 (except Sundays). Tickets R30 (R15 scholars & students). Book on 031 204 2194.

Also a quick note to commend the department on the attractive tickets now offered at The Courtyard - a nice professional touch. – Caroline Smart




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