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THREE DOZEN ROSES (article first published : 2006-01-22)

Presented as part of the Musho Festival One Person and Two-Person Festival at Kwasuka Theatre, Three Dozen Roses is my first review of the year and I approached it with some trepidation - wondering if, after gazing at the beautiful surroundings of Kosmos at Hartbeesport Dam for a month or so, my brain would get back into gear quickly enough to do justice to two new pieces of writing!

It was also a bitter-sweet experience as the last time I saw Frantz Dobrowsky, who so tragically committed suicide several days ago, was when he appeared in Run to Ground at this venue a few years back.

However, the survivalist spirit of theatre prevailed. The two pieces grabbed my attention immediately and the excellent performances of Cornelius Clasen and Jacques Blignaut held me riveted.

Written by Johannesburg-based Hans Pienaar and directed by Andre Stolz, Three Dozen Roses was invited to the Musho festival because Hans Pienaar was declared the Best Writer for his script in the Durban leg of the NLDTF/PANSA Festival of Contemporary Theatre Readings last November, Andre Stolz received Best Director and the production shared the audience vote. The staging of the double bill at the Musho Festival, courtesy of PANSA, was part of the prize.

Three Dozen Roses is made up of two short plays: Conscientious Objection and Madiba Street.

Conscientious Objection is a delicious piece of highly amusing philosophical meandering where a man (Cornelius Clasen wearing a white T-shirt bearing the word “African”) wrestles with his conscience (Jacques Blignaut in a smart grey suit). Conscience starts off by berating the Man for leaving all his tools lying around, smugly stating that “irrepressible urges are not my domain”. The story develops into a philosophical argument as to each character’s outlook on life before moving to deeper and more confrontational issues as to why Conscience is Coloured – turns out he freelances for the Government (hilarious touch!) – and why the Man is having such a problem with his sexual (or non-sexual, as it turns out) relationship with a young Black woman.

In the end, the Man gets the upper hand, promising Conscience that far from his being turned into a slave once the Man marries the object of his affections, Conscience will play a far stronger role!

Madiba Street reflects the nightmare of most South Africans – the hijacker who is on the lookout for a particular vehicle – in a particular series in a particular colour. This is another amusing satirical piece where a teacher gets lost in a suburb where all the streets are named in some form or another after Nelson Mandela. He makes the mistake of asking directions from a dyslexic hijacker and – you’ve guessed it - his vehicle is on The List!

However, the hijacker has his own problems. He’s in the third year of Matric and he’s battling to cope with George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The teacher is on his way to a hot date – hence the three dozen roses of the title – and while being suitably respectful of the gun being waved at him, is determined to reach his destination and prepared to go to any lengths to achieve this end.

The setting is simple but effective, involving the framework of a vehicle with a few props such as a toolbox, large paint drum, stool and clipboard. Andre Stolz’s direction is clear and uncluttered and he places his actors effectively in fast-moving scenarios that rattle along, weaving in and out of satirical and very un-PC arguments. Good use is made of the creeper (the flat trolley that mechanics use to get underneath vehicles)!

While they are presented as a double bill, I believe that the two pieces actually exist independently of each other and it just requires a bit of tweaking to make them so. At present, we are led to believe that Cornelius Clasen’s character in Conscientious Objection moves on in time to Madiba Street but there are too many illogicalities to make this credible.

This means that Madiba Street fares less positively. I would have preferred an interval between the two one-acters, to allow audiences to put the one “to bed” in the hard drive of the mind and to approach the next piece from a fresh start. However, this is something that no doubt director Andre Stolz and playwright Hans Pienaar will sort out together.

Whatever the outcome, if either piece – jointly or independently comes your way - don’t miss it/them.

There will be one more performance of Three Dozen Roses tomorrow night (January 22) at Kwasuka Theatre at 18h00. Running time without interval is 70 mins. Catch it if you can. – Caroline Smart




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