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PASSION ON LIGHTHOUSE ROAD (article first published : 2008-05-8; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

Last evening was endowed with a spirit of discovery – first of all to head for the Bluff to see an evening of theatre in Passion on Lighthouse Road; secondly to find a charming and highly usable venue and, thirdly, to delight in seeing Garth Anderson back again in the director’s seat – this time for adult theatre, as opposed to his productions for young people through the Actors Co-Operative.

Garth Anderson was invited to direct this inaugural production for the newly formed Bluff theatre group, Blud. He has chosen a well-knit cast which features Sheldon Troy Campbell, Robyn Hailey Wells, Charles Kusner and NJ Sithole – Sheldon and NJ recently appeared in the Actors Co-Operative’s Just So Stories.

Something about the music played in the interval between the two one-act plays struck a distant chord. It was the velvety sound of The Four Aces singing Love is a Many Splendoured Thing, which was one of my dad’s favourite tunes. It came off a record (remember those?) which we acquired in 1958 when the family was living in Borneo where Dad had been transferred for a year. It is this year – 1958 - in which Passion on Lighthouse Road is set and it comprises a double-bill of one-act plays adapted from Anton Chekhov’s The Proposal and The Bear, the latter being titled The Bush Pig for this production.

The legendary Russian dramatist Anton Chekhov, who also had a degree in medicine, secured his place in history with his tragedies but he also produced some highly amusing one-act plays. In these, he combined his fondness for French farce while keeping them Russian in style. The Proposal and The Bear were among his most popular works of this kind.

The Passion on Lighthouse Road company have taken these two stories a step further by their successful and often highly-amusing adaptation of Lydia Jibustovich-Jackson’s translations. The stories have been placed at a time when Elvis is King, Penny Coelen has become Miss World, Edwin Swales Drive has only recently been constructed and offensive smells waft on the breeze from the whaling station.

Sheldon Troy Campbell carries the major load of both plays. In The Proposal, he plays an ardent suitor arriving at his intended’s home and finding himself completely tongue-tied to the point of heart failure when he tries to explain his intentions to her father. However, all does not go well when the couple are left alone together as both are highly argumentative – especially when it comes to land ownership and whether her dog has a pug face! In The Bush Pig, his role requires a more aggressive personality: bombastic and rude but suddenly recognising a kindred spirit in the form of the grieving widow.

Sheldon filled both roles with much energy and passion – often too much so for the size of the venue – and he needs to tone down his facial movements. There were times when he reminded me of the deliciously grumpy camel he plays in the Just So Stories!

Charles Kusner was the father in The Proposal and I enjoyed his forthright delivery and good timing. Robyn Hailey Wells impressed me vocally with two completely different accents and with her unswerving focus during the rantings and ravings her character has to endure. NJ Sithole played the much put-upon manservant, Moses, in The Bush Pig with restrained dignity and wry humour.

Should this find favour with the school board, the Kenmont School restaurant has great potential as a venue for small one-two person shows, cabarets or candlelight theatre. In order to combat the ever-rising costs that are currently battering consumers and which threaten the very survival of theatre in this city, I am of the firm belief that actors now have to “take theatre to the people” and not the other way round. It’s more cost-effective for a group of four of five performers to travel to the suburbs than expect audiences to drive into town. We need to build up more fringe venues which will in turn build up a stronger audience base.

I would suggest the removal of the floor mat in The Proposal - there is much danger of the actors tripping as it curls upon itself under the hectic action! Otherwise, good use has been made of the acting area.

Passion on Lighthouse Road will be performed at the Kenmont School restaurant in Fynnlands until May 17 with performances from Wednesday to Saturday at 20h00 (plus a matinee on May 11 at 14h00). Booking is at www.strictlytickets.com Further enquiries to Charles on 072 305 2055. – Caroline Smart




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