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

BLOOD ORANGE (article first published : 2007-09-11)

I have been trying to see Blood Orange, the acclaimed one-man play performed by Craig Morris, for the last few years but every time it has been performed at a theatre near me, I have either not been in the right place at the right time or too tied up with other projects to catch it.

I was extremely grateful, therefore, to the recent 2007 ABSA Kollig Festival – which, by all indications was a great success – for providing me with the opportunity of seeing this stunning production.

In a physically-demanding piece of theatre of 70 minutes or more, Craig Morris held me spellbound as he told his tale. All he has are a few car tyres (and another shirt) in the way of props, at times seeming to hypnotise the tyres as they appeared to move at his will! The rest is up to his dramatic talent, his impressive vocal versatility and his strong movement skills.

Blood Orange is based on a novel by Troy Blacklaws which has been adapted by Craig Morris and Greig Coetzee. Sensitively directed by Greig Coetzee who has taken full advantage of the humour in the piece, it is the story of a sprightly young lad called Gecko and his growth from birth to a liberal thinking young man trying to keep his head about him in the apartheid era.

He takes us from Gecko’s early years on a farm in KwaZulu-Natal – a carefree time only clouded by his hatred of green peas and adult talk of the “black people who come in the night and murder old ladies”. What could so easily become saccharine sentimentality is handled so skilfully and sincerely, one is swept along by the story.

There are beautiful moments such as his interpretation of the moon landing, singing in church when he doesn’t know the words of the hymn, and the mind-blowing discovery of …. Love!

School is a daunting experience for Gecko. His teacher, the high-heeled chignon-ed bespectacled Miss Fish (you see her created in rapid fire mime) doesn’t think much of Gecko’s dream to “run naked with assegais”! His characters - from a cane-wielding headmaster or a barking sergeant major to a voluptuous Zulu nanny and a simpering teenage girl - are accurate and credible. Never flagging in a completely focused performance, Craig is in command of a remarkable range of emotions and intensity.

The title of the play refers to the colour of the setting sun flowing over South Africa and its peoples. Atmospheric lighting outlines the figure of a slightly deranged hobo as he potters along with his portable home of tyres. This scene appears at the beginning and the end of the play, reminding us how small we are in a greater universe.

If Blood Orange comes to a theatre anywhere near you, don’t miss it! – Caroline Smart




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