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

SPITFIRE: THE RETURN OF RED-I (article first published : 2007-03-9)

Iain Robinson (aka Ewok) is fast becoming a major cult figure in Durban and this is because of his astonishing, razor sharp challenge to the social conscience through entertainment.

Never having been in the right place at the right time up until now, I’ve only ever seen him in guest appearances at award ceremonies or special functions. So it was with a great sense of anticipation that I headed for Kwasuka Theatre last night for his production of Spitfire The Return of the Red-I, directed by Libby Allen.

I certainly wasn’t disappointed. artSMart has already carried Maurice Kort’s review when Ewok appeared at the Musho! Festival in January, where his performance was understandably one of the acknowledged highlights. I can’t better Maurice’s comment: “Never having been a fan of rap or hip hop, he has completely won me over. His material is brilliant and his performance faultless, an amazing feat….”

Dressed in a baggy tracksuit, scarves wound round his arms, a cap that has a life of his own and rather incongruous (considering the hard-hitting material) white socks and takkies, Iain starts off with barely a whisper - “Hollywood’s burning and I want to do my part to fuel the fire”. He goes on to present cutting-edge satirical comment that looks at many issues. There are memorable lines – “If you don’t like what I say, then say it yourself” or “I rhyme because I’m free” – and they keep on coming with breathtaking rapidity!

He places strong focus on how television can manipulate the minds of the vulnerable. “We need to think about what we sell to the kids,” Iain says. It’s long been a challenge of mine to get children to understand that the violence they see on television is make-believe. The actors get up from the ground at the end of the scene, wash off the blood and come back to work the next day. Don’t give a child a toy gun to play with - they’ll think the real ones are just as harmless.

Iain focuses on slavish followers of fashion - “minds who are manufactured don’t mind if they’re fractured” and vociferously denounces computer pornography, fireworks and advertising hype.

There’s a circle of candles and aerosol cans at the back of the stage. The lighting changes once he enters this, bathing him in a red glow and throwing his shadow onto the back curtains like some giant menacing figure. Pulling his cap down over his eyes, he defends graffiti artists who are crying against injustice and breaking “barriers without harming”.

An amusing sequence sees him as a street hawker selling ideas: “Ideas! Ideas! … Discount on Ideas! Big ideas fresh out the brain …!”

Breakdance is an acknowledged form of movement. Is there, therefore, “breakspeak”? If so, Iain’s got it taped with his capacity to manipulate his voice in stops, jerks and sounds that make a poetry of their own.”

I’ve finally found out the origin of his pseudonym Ewok – or to give it its full title – Creamy Ewok Baggends. At school, he admits he was somewhat large and was known as Cream Puff, then came Ewok after Star Wars and Baggends after The Hobbit. So now you know! Or, rather, so now I know!

Now to be known as The Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre, Kwasuka is in the capable hands of a young and energetic team and aims to be the home of exciting new theatre in KZN. The foyer and bar area have undergone a major transformation and the ants that plagued audiences and performers alike have been despatched to ant heaven. There is also promise of new air-conditioning! Coupled to the performance programming, Kwasuka aims to develop theatre management and administration skills. Spitfire The Return of the Red-I is the first show to be staged within the theatre’s new vision. Don’t miss it!

Tickets R50 (R25 students and pensioners) through the Thandeka at the Catalina/Kwasuka booking office on 031 305 6889. Shows Tuesday until Saturday at 20h00 and Sunday at 18h00. Tickets now available online at www.strictlytickets.co.za or www.catalinatheatre.co.za or www.goingplaces.co.za – Caroline Smart

Ticket special (two for the price of one) for performances until March 11.




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