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JAMAICAN JAM (article first published : 2007-02-14)

En route to Amsterdam last year, Themi Venturas bought No Woman No Cry written by the late Bob Marley’s widow, Rita Marley. Reading it on the plane, he was inspired to revisit a production he had created in June, 1999, titled Jamaican Jam. A further good reason is that the birth date of Bob Marley falls in February.

Now running at Catalina Theatre, devised and directed by Themi Venturas and designed by Peter Court, Jamaican Jam was first performed in Durban at the Glenwood Old Boys Club under Peter Court’s direction. This time round, it has had the kiss of approval from Bob Marley’s family itself who saw the show on a recent visit to Durban. Members of the family accompanied Rita Marley to South Africa – and Durban – to launch her aforesaid book and to raise awareness for the Africa Unite 2007 series of concerts.

Do take note of the fascinating bead wallhanging at the side of the stage. Created by the Umcebo Trust run by the extraordinarily inventive Robin Opperman this features a virtual 3-D beaded head of Bob Marley and is adorned with little maps of Africa. Bought by the Durban Art Gallery, this work will eventually be given to the Marley family.

Back in 1999, I described Jamaican Jam as “quite one of the most breezy, enjoyable and entertaining supper theatre shows to come Durban’s way for a while”. It’s lost none of its fun and is further enhanced now by some choice digs at personalities who regularly appear in media headlines! Two members of the original cast - Eric “Coolfire” Radebe and Clinton Philander - are still in full flight in their original characters – although Sans Moonsamy will replace Clinton shortly when he moves to do a show at the Barnyard.

The storyline deals with two South African jollers – Rasta (Eric from Durbs) and Chips (Clinton from Cape Town) - who have arrived on the island of Jamaica in search of the spiritual centre of reggae.” Here they meet a laid-back retired Jamaican named Earl - Hamish Kyd dressed a la Ernest Hemingway with a hat that goes considerably squiff as the party gets going! The beach setting includes a pub which is run by the feisty Joanna played by the charming and slender Kim Sanssoucie who is a performer to watch. Joanna is hotly pursued by the erudite Professor – a considerably slimmed down Rowan Bartlett.

While the cast all give fine and energetic performances, as before it’s the ever-watchable Rasta-locked and rubber legged Eric who quietly draws one’s attention,. He has one of the widest smiles I’ve ever seen and his lapse into a dream world after a few “spiffs” were passed around was a delight.

From the opening Hot, Hot, Hot the programme just keeps on coming with great numbers such as No Woman, No Cry!, I Don’t Wanna Dance and Rum and Coca Cola to the final Reggae Nights. Particularly enjoyable were It Wasn’t Me, Johnny Be Good and Wise Men Cry.

Jamaican Jam runs at Catalina Theatre until March 11 (although it is possible that the show might be extended) Tickets R65. There’s a Valentine’s Special tomorrow night (February 14) when tickets at R120 pp includes finger supper, champagne, chocolates and romantic boat ride around Durban Bay.

If you’re good at limbo dancing and are prepared to go on stage and do your thing, then you stand to win a holiday cruise! It’s a feel good show – don’t miss it if you want to be uplifted through fun and entertainment. Bookings through Thandeka on 031 305 6889 or www.strictlytickets.com – Caroline Smart




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