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THEN …. & MUTATIS MUTANDIS (article first published : 2000-10-9)

Forming part of the current Slice of Madness celebration running at the Kwasuka Theatre during October is a double bill of David Campton’s one-act plays of absurd humour: Then … and Mutatis Mutandis, co-directed by Clinton Marius, Angus Douglas and Wendy Nell.

Campton places Then ... in London’s Piccadilly Circus in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion when the world is reduced to dust. The only remaining human beings are a beauty queen - Miss Europe (Pertulia Ramaphala) - and Phythick (Angus Douglas) who is a teacher of physics and higher mathematics. They have survived because they did as the authorities instructed and stuck paper bags over their heads. This is, after all, absurdist humour!

As the current Miss Europe with sights set on the world crown, the beauty queen bewails the fact that there “doesn’t seem to be a world left to be a Miss of”! She cannot come to terms with the loss of radio, television and vacuum cleaners and the fact that there’s nobody around to tell her what to do anymore. She also doesn’t know whether it’s eating time as the clocks have all stopped.

The teacher, whom she calls “Mr Thing” wants answers, someone to blame, some logic to the current situation. He constantly analyses his feelings – about his current state and his attraction to this paper-headed female who he is afraid to approach too closely because his paper bag had onions in it.

With their heads stuck in paper bags and unable to portray their emotions facially, the actors have to rely on body language and vocal dynamics to get their performance across and both manage well. There are some nice moments of poignancy as they discover their feelings for each other, emotions which are tempered by their joint fear of removing the bags which could possibly reduce them to dust.

Costumes have been produced by Ruff Tung with styling by Grant Mac. In Then …, Pertulia wears a sexy brown leather skirt although the cerise sequinned top could have better straps. Angus sports a natty lime green hooded jacket, which seems an odd choice because the character says that the only protective gear he could find was something belonging to the Matron. She must have been a really natty dresser!

In Mutatis Mutandis, David Campton sets his characters in the waiting room of a clinic where a couple – Douglas and Celia - have just produced their first child. The audience gets a sense that all is not quite right with a recorded dialogue between the starchy Nurse Min and the father. It is only when the mother appears and the father has to explain to her the whole truth that the audience realises that this baby is far from “usual” – an adjective Campton uses to good humorous effect.

To add to an already absurd situation, this play has been presented with the roles reversed. Caroline Palmer, with manly actions, sideburns and stubble and dressed in an ill-fitting suit, plays the father while Clinton Marius is the distraught and confused Celia. I’m not sure if the role reversals work but certainly Clinton looks stunning in blonde wig, dramatic white floral dress and impeccable make-up. Slim and willowy, he also looks nothing like a mother who has just given birth. But, we must remember what she’s given birth to – perhaps mutants don’t create tummy bulges and just pop out the womb without any fuss. Logic must take a back seat. Remember that this is, after all, absurdist humour. And the play is highly entertaining.

Other performances of the double bill are on October 12, 21, 27 and 29. Book at Computicket or at Kwasuka Theatre on (031) 309-2236.

A surprise item on the bill was a short appearance by Louise Richards, a teacher by profession, who is trying her hand at stand-up comedy. This was her very first performance and I predict it won’t be her last. Apart from a lack of voice projection, she is engaging and amusing. Keep an eye out for her at future Slice of Madness performances.




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