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CRASHING THE NIGHT (article first published : 2000-08-31)

NB: This review is a re-write of the one I wrote when I saw the production in Grahamstown at this year’s Standard Bank National Arts Festival.

“This place looks like the inside of a tea cosy or the Taj Mahal”, quips hard drinking seen-it-all cigarette salesman de Wet as he enters the stage of Paul Slabolepszy’s latest play Crashing the Night. With its sumptuous wine red velvet walls and ruched panels plus armchairs with white and gold plastic antimacassars, pedestals with naked statues and a well-stocked bar, he's wrong on either count. And that's pretty much how things go for de Wet from then on - from promising to chaotic to downright hideous when he discovers he's about to face the future as a member of the unemployed.

The first time I saw this production was at DGS in Grahamstown, I was still recovering from a broken foot and found climbing the audience scaffolding difficult. So I was placed on a chair at the side of the stage. Side of the stage? With the limited space available, I was virtually ON the stage and much credit goes to the cast for putting up with a reviewer scribbling away under their noses!

In the Grahamstown production de Wet and his uptight long-suffering corporate superior Bromley were played by James Borthwick and Graham Hopkins. While this is always an impeccable pairing of two fine comedy actors, it smacked too much of the Corky Labuschagne and Richard (definitely NOT Dick!) Hopcroft duo seen in Under the Oaks and Life's a Pitch.

De Wet and Bromley are on their way to a corporate seminar when they stop over at what the programme describes as an "adult entertainment club in a town somewhere in Mpumalanga. In the Durban production de Wet is played by Russel Savadier and this introduces a different dynamic and balance to the play. Russel is not as tall as James so there is much comedy in his scenes with the tall – and wonderful – Camilla Waldman who plays Clarise, the resident “hostess” of The Coral Lounge. It says something for her stage skills that for at least 10 minutes she manages to hold the audience’s attention in silence without saying a word and with her mouth half open!

The nightclub owner is one Jack Daniels played by Sello Sebotsane - who’s REALLY big!. The final member of the cast is a former boxer who blithely bounces in and announces he's smashed Bromley's precious car. He is played by the mercurial Paul Slabolepszy himself who manages to put a wealth of meaning into a simple “Huh?”

De Wet and Bromley find themselves embroiled in a world of skulduggery, a dead body and a three-stage scam. And somewhere in all of this, there’s an all-important packet of Dogmor.

Directed by Megan Willson, Crashing the Night has some delightful scenes and many brilliant one-liners. It promises to be another blazing success from this writer who seems to have cracked the formula to prise audiences away from their television sets.

Crashing the Night plays the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until September 24. As the show has had particular appeal for those involved in marketing and sales, there are special corporate block booking rates on (031) 202-9093. Regular booking is through Computicket or Ticketline on 304-2753 or save booking costs on http://www.computicket.com

During the run at the Sneddon, Crashing the Night gives several performances at the Hilton Arts Festival which runs from September 15 to 17.




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