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

AND 5, 6, 7, 8! (article first published : 2007-04-11)

The Catalina Theatre and the Kwasuka Theatre, newly renamed the Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre, are both well-known for presenting plays by new South African artists and Themi Venturas, the owner producer, deserves full credit for his brave ventures.

He announced that the two theatres have combined into a Section 21 Company, TheatreBiz, which will now be eligible for subsidies. His admirable plan is for the company to help keep theatre alive in Durban so that we can be treated to legitimate theatre and not only the endless musical revues/tribute shows which is all Durban seems to receive.

A recipient of the Smart Trophy for Lifetime Achievement to the Arts, his motives are admirable and his theatres deserve the full support of the KwaZulu-Natal public.

Having said that, the first production of TheatreBiz is this new play, a world premier staging of a new South African play written by Terry Davidoff and Steven Pillemer, And 5, 6, 7, 8!, and it will be no act of charity for the public to attend this play. It is a most entertaining well-written and enthusiastically performed work directed by Themi Venturas, with choreography and directorial assistance by Mark Hawkins.

The set, by Cara Markowitz, consists of black drapes decorated with fairy lights, and the show opens with a stunning dance number, as one would expect with Mark Hawkins at the helm. Thereafter a small revolving stage very cleverly comes into effect - a great innovation for this small theatre - and one then becomes embroiled in the backstage look at the characters and lives of the five dancers.

The first on stage is Sean de Klerk as "Claude". There is no doubt as to his sexual orientation and the characterisation by Sean de Klerk is excellent, in every move, delivery of his lines and attitude. At no time is he "over the top" which could easily be the case. He was the recipient of the Fool's Award at the recent ceremony for the Best Newcomer and one can see why he received this. He is a talent to watch - and he dances, too.

"Tammy" and "Shakina" are performed by Sasha De Marigny and Kim Sancoussie, respectively, two newcomers to these two theatres.

The two stalwarts of the Durban scene, Darren King as "Frankie" and Janna Ramos-Violante as "Jordan" make up the rest of the cast. Darren King is well-known as a comedic actor, especially in the annual pantomimes presented in Durban and recently in Art at the Kwasuka Theatre. He proves to be a very good serious actor as well and Janna Ramos-Violante is proving to be a very versatile actress having seen her in vastly different roles (Dracula and Boston Marriage). Their characters are well delineated and portrayed and all are most convincing in their roles of the troupe of professional cabaret dancers.

The play exposes the complexities and problems of their private lives in this intimate backstage look as well as the disciplines of their profession. The on-stage show-time life and the backstage real-time life are cleverly juxtaposed and are moving, humorous (with many very funny lines) and revealing. The play is highly recommended for everyone interested in the lives that performers lead on and off the stage.

There are several further dance sequences in the show and the cast perform most commendably, bearing in mind that they are not principally hoofers (dancers). Of course, this gives the play an excellent excuse to have several costume changes and Kevin Ellis certainly had his work cut out to achieve this. The costumes are stunning.

A very small quibble about the set is that the large full-length mirror reflected the stage light into the eyes of the audience, which was rather distracting, although it was effective displaying the backstage ambiance. However, following the usual stage procedure, the mirror should have been smeared with Vaseline. It probably was, but not sufficiently.

It is a well-scripted play which, as a first work, shows great promise and one can look forward to more work from these young artists. It is billed as for adults only, with good reason, and can be seen at the Catalina Theatre, Wilson’s Wharf, from April 5 to 22 at 20h00. Tickets R70 with the usual "two for the price of one" on Tuesdays and Sundays with booking through Thandeka on 031-305-6889. – Maurice Kort




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