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THE LOVE OF THE NIGHTINGALE (article first published : 2000-09-15)

The Love of the Nightingale by Timberlake Wertenbaker is a production by Technikon Natal’s department of drama which opened tonight at Technikon’s Courtyard Theatre. It is directed by Technikon graduate and now part-time lecturer Pertulia Ramaphala, one of the three winners of a special award two years ago from FNB Vita in memory of David Coleman, former arts editor of The Mercury.

Currently manager of Kwasuka Theatre and doing her honours through the University of Natal, Pertulia was recognised for her commitment to drama and her enthusiastic and vigorous support of the pursuit of excellence in this discipline. This clear focus is evident in her direction of this play which the press release describes as a “fascinating mixture of myth, history and drama.” Although set in ancient Greece “with very classical roots, it is as modern as it is original and its themes relate to society today as readily as they did to a more barbaric time.”

Pertulia has chosen to set her well-staged directorial début “in the round” – the first time I have seen this kind of setting at the Courtyard. Although the venue does not lend itself well to this format, it does allow the audience to become more intimately involved with the action as they are placed on the stage with the overflow being seated in the auditorium proper.

The cast features mainly first-year students and, considering their limited experience, they handle this difficult piece with aplomb. Wertenbaker uses a classic Greek styled chorus as narrators but the dialogue style fluctuates from classic to contemporary making it difficult to produce a sustained performance. The text also offers several illogical sequences, often dwelling too long on insignificant areas and leaving those that should be explained without foundation.

The three lead roles put in good performances. Remember their names, we’ll see more of them. Gulshan Mia is the gracious obedient Procne, torn from her beloved sister and sophisticated Athens to marry the cold and brutal Tereus to live in an unfriendly country where she is desperate for communication and friendship. As Tereus, Denton Douglas has a good voice and an impressive stature. Grabbing the acting honours is Farla Simon as the naiive but outspoken Philomele – a part which requires much sensitivity and a strong acting ability.

Taryn Gilbert, Charmain Mpofu, Bongiwe Chiliza and Maxine Du Plessis make up the Female Chorus, fourth year student Bryan Hiles lends his flair for comedy to a fun scene and another performer worth mentioning is Menzi Mwelazi as the Captain. Denton, Farla and Menzi’s scenes are well played and they handle the build-up to the rape sequence well

“No life is ever untouched by war” says one of the characters but the abuse of women is prevalent in both war and peace time. Another nice performance comes from Samantha Wright as the all-knowing maid who simply accepts the inevitable, believing it to be a woman’s lot in life.

The set with its rostra, attractive painted floor cloth and centrepiece as well as the costumes are designed by Jacky Vermaas and lighting design is by Jenny Sander. There are two more performances on September 15 and 16 at 19h30. Tickets R10 (R6 scholars). Book at Computicket or phone (031) 204-2532.




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