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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 MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (article first published : 2000-08-5)

Pieter Scholtz's Kwasuka Theatre Company, under the capable direction of Jacky Vermaas, has crafted a stark but engaging production of A Man for All Seasons, Robert Bolt's tale of 16th century politics, a drama centred on a persecuted individual in conflict with a corrupt system. A setwork for matriculants this year, the play runs for two-and-a-half hours with an interval and has been attracting good houses of school pupils to the Durban College of Education theatre, the entrance to which is in Nicolson Road, opposite Assumption Parish Hall.

A cast of 10 is assembled for the production, which is mounted on a large stage featuring a grouping of black platforms and staircases, the only props being a wooden table, some small benches and a few candles. The story is an intriguing one - that of British Chancellor Sir Thomas More, a respected Catholic victimised for standing steadfast for his beliefs and devotion to the law. Pieter Scholtz gives a heartfelt, elegant performance lending a noble yet poignant air to the principal character who invites increasing problems with his refusals to give his blessing to King Henry VIII divorcing his wife Catharine of Aragon who could give him no sons.

It was the king's desire to marry Anne Boleyn with a view to her bearing him an heir but More remained adamant not to condone this action, ruling that no monarch was above the law of the land and of God. He stood firm even when stripped of the trappings of wealth to which he, his wife Alice (Caroline Smart), daughter Margaret (Angela Dodds) and son-in-law Will Roper (Bryan Hiles) had been accustomed. And he remained true to his principles even when tried for high treason and faced with execution by decapitation - events carefully orchestrated by the conniving Cromwell.

Cromwell is played by Michael Gritten, a deserved FNB Award-winner for Popcorn and impressive in the recent You Might As Well Live, but who here, while competent, is curiously and disappointingly subdued, his projection sometimes leaving much to be desired.

Smart lends an air of authority and vibrancy to her role as More's concerned wife, while a constant delight and crowd-pleaser is an animated Dennis Schauffer as the play's narrator who fills several small roles -from jailer to boatman, to executioner, inn-keeper and More's steward. Also prominently featured is War Cry and Master Harold and the Boys star John van de Ruit doubling here as an earnest Richard Rich and a jovial King Henry VIII.

Less effective is Hugo le Roux who, as the Spanish Ambassador, adopts an accent so hammy it teeters towards panto level while both Dodds and Hiles are simply adequate. Completing the cast are Patrick Collyer as the Duke of Norfolk and Shanna Peterson in the small role of Catherine Anger

As a movie A Man For All Seasons won six Academy Awards in 1966: best film and costume design, Robert Bolt's screenplay, Paul Scofield's performance, Fred Zinnemann's direction and Ted Moore's striking cinematography.

The Kwasuka Theatre Company version is being staged at 09h00 and 13h00 daily until August 11. The production is aimed at school audiences, but the general public is welcome to attend. A special performance has been arranged for Wednesday (August 9) at 19h30. For bookings or further details, contact (031) 309-2236.




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