A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

drama
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

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

SPICE ‘N STUFF (article first published : 2007-05-26)

Watching Spice ‘n Stuff is, on one hand, like paging through a dog-eared Marvel comic – a myriad of larger than life outlandish comic-strip caricatures: you can almost see the speech bubbles and comic-speak exclamations. The bristling brothers (Rubeshan Perumal and Ashwin Singh) – one minute feuding taxi rivals, the next doting siblings; the vivacious no-nonsense she-cop with bobbing hair, protruding pistol, unstoppable legs and don’t mess-with-me boots (Upasana Beharee); the smooth talking faux-Rolex salesman with shifty eyes, furtive glances and the smoothest tongue (Pranesh Maharaj) and the stooped old sari-clad auntie with the PW finger and the endless complaints (Upasana Beharee) – a parade of instantly-recognisable, fun-to-laugh at stereotypes performing tightly-written vignettes.

The audience laughed easily at these instantly likeable Durbanites, carefully honed by Ashwin’s astute writing and director Caroline Smart’s deft hand.

The story is about Rita – beautifully portrayed with subtlety and tenderness by Shika Budhoo – a middle-aged woman who runs Singh’s Spice and Stuff, one of the original family-run Grey Street businesses. She sells spices, sews sari blouses and makes endless pots of tea which she shares with friends and customers. She is a key figure in the Grey Street community as she understands the dynamics of the changing environment.

We meet the relevant people in her life: her wannabe lawyer son Vijay (Ashwin Singh); her caring friend Rani (Shireen van der Wath); her pirated DVD-selling Pakistani Muslim neighbour (a delightful Pranesh Maharaj); her bitter nephew (Pranesh Maharaj) and a key person in the story and neighbourhood, street-trader Thulani (Sifiso Simamane).

Despite being behind in the rent, and the offer of generous business opportunities, Rita stubbornly refuses to close the family shop and move away. Rita’s story is poignant, relevant, familiar and brave.

This hugely topical play tells of the difficulties faced by these traders as they try and survive in a once bustling part of town whose social and economic role has shifted in the new South Africa. Their customers now shop at the malls; specialist shops have been overtaken by markets and chain stores, and crime makes both shopping and trading in Grey Street difficult and dangerous.

Intertwined with the challenging social conditions, emerge dark family secrets which further complicate the traders’ lives and impact on important decisions.

Shika Budhoo is wonderful as Rita. She contains her performance, doesn’t play to stereotype and is convincing as a much older woman. Ashwin’s Vijay is a coiled spring – a veil of civility masks a font of suppressed anger and bitterness. His only functioning relationship is surprisingly with Thulani who neither judges nor expects anything from him. Complex emotions cloud his other relationships with occasional moments of tenderness with his mother and her friend Rani.

Pranesh Maharaj shines as the Pakistani neighbour and is suitably gruff and embittered as Ajith, the angry nephew. Sifiso Simamane is credible, natural and endearing as Thulani – the newcomer independent black trader working alongside the old-school Indian merchants. Rita’s supportive friend Rani is played with sincerity by Shireen van der Wath.

The vignettes are delicious – Upasana Beharee is a sheer delight and a scene-stealing comic actress to watch. Rubeshan Perumal has got the gangsta looks and moves down to a fine art, and Pranesh Maharaj is a theatrical chameleon – a very fine character actor morphing effortlessly from role to role. Most of the cast are experienced radio actors – one gets a sense that performing character roles for Lotus fm drama has been helpful for their stage work. Without exception, their characterization was spot on … and with more than a passing nod to Bollywood.

Sets and costumes worked perfectly – although I wanted to see more bowls of spices on the counter and more of a sense of some of the wonderful colours, aromas and textures of the merchandise. The shop felt a bit too orderly and neat to me – a few more spices, jars and bags of basmati perhaps, un-matching chairs would probably work better too.

Applause for Ashwin for once again telling our stories and writing such a topical, localized and relevant script. This is the first production of this work, which will no doubt be tweaked and re-worked in time. There are a few slumpy moments which need to be a bit more pacey and sometimes the disparity between the poignant story being told and the fun vignette links seem a bit incongruous and uneven – but this will get smoothed out in time.

Also the acoustics at the Catalina are not always ideal for spoken word theatre so sit near the front.

For a first telling of a new work – hats off to all concerned!

Spice ‘n Stuff is for family audiences (preferably eight years and up). Shows Tuesday until Saturday at 20h00 and Sunday at 18h00 with special matinee performances on June 2 and 3. Tickets R60 (R30 students and pensioners). For more information or to book call Thandeka on 031 305 6889 or visit www.strictlytickets.co.za, www.catalinatheatre.co.za or www.goingplaces.co.za – Illa Thompson




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart