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LADIES AND GENTS (article first published : 2007-05-10)

As the title suggests, Ladies and Gents running at Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre is set in male and female toilets.

Alright, they’re not your average public toilets but VIP toilets adjoining the VIP area of a trendy Durban restaurant. The all-white box set features an elegant black pedestal block holding the basins on which are the ubiquitous hand-creams and soap dispensers. Set as a divide between the two toilets, it carries a large mirror which works for both sides – the ladies’ area has an elegant plant material arrangement and the urinal in the men’s section is discreetly placed so that one only sees the actors from the waist up.

In line with Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre’s policy of encouraging new works and new performers, Ladies and Gents is presented by the award-winning Do What I Please Productions, a theatre company that has attracted much critical acclaim with Spitfire: the Return of The Red-I.

Direction is by Libby Allen who also appears in the show alongside Genevieve Akal, Brett Kyle, Iain Ewok Robinson and Ntokozo Mthethwa. Together they launch through a fairly riotous and amusing evening at the restaurant.

Peter, a coke-sniffing jittery restaurant owner (a nicely under-played Iain Robinson), is looking forward to a romantic evening with his girlfriend Candace (Libby Allen, soignée in a black outfit). He discovers to his dismay that she has invited her friend Lorraine (a suitably frumpily-dressed Genevieve Akal) to join them. As Lorraine doesn’t have a partner, Candace has involved Jack (Brett Kyle as a wannabe suave Lothario) who has in turn brought along his stuttering brother, Zack (Ntokozo Mthethwa) who is frantically rehearsing for a ballroom dance competition. Left with one dinner guest without a partner, Peter calls in Betty (an unseen character) from the kitchen to join them as company for Zack. This does not find favour with Candace who’s considering ending her relationship with Peter, anyway!

The characters wander in and out of both male and female toilet areas in a series of mildly chaotic situations. While farce is admittedly a dramatic style that is larger than life, it needs to be slick and played “very real”. The situations, dialogue and timing create the comedy - not necessarily the actors. I would prefer the cast to tone down their performances and play less for laughs. Kwasuka is a beautiful space in which you need very little projection - acting or vocal - unlike a venue the size of the Playhouse Drama or the Elizabeth Sneddon. There is much humour in the script, it doesn’t need to be pushed to make it funny However, this is something that will probably correct itself as the production moves past opening night jitters.

Don’t be put off by the fact that Ladies and Gents is set in a toilet. Apart from one aspect dealing with feminine hygiene which went into overkill, there’s nothing offensive about the production.

Ladies and Gents runs at Kwasuka Cutting Edge Theatre from May 8 to 20 at 19h00 (Sundays at 18h00) with no shows on Mondays. To book phone 031 305 6889 visit www.strictlytickets.co.za – Caroline Smart




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