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

MANY HAPPY RETURNS (article first published : 2008-06-24)

The audience had to wait about half an hour for a major cloudburst to pass before we could move from the Catalina foyer into the theatre proper to watch Danielle Perlman and Sean de Klerk’s Many Happy Returns on Sunday night. And no sooner had we settled than the heavens opened again and the roof thundered with rain drops. For once, the noise from that hideous extractor fan was drowned!

All kudos to Danielle and Sean who, bright as buttons and projecting for all their worth, soldiered on with their quirky comedy set in an airport holding area. Eventually they could relax as the rain moved off somewhere else. Mind you, sometimes the roar of the rain sounded like jet engines so I guess it added to the atmosphere.

Devised by the duo, Many Happy Returns did extremely well at this year’s Musho! Festival of one and two-person theatre pieces. The play is now headed for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown which commences on Wednesday.

We discover Sean sitting outside a Boarding Gate - it’s actually the wrong one, but then he’s not too good at these things. He’s surrounded by various pieces of luggage, far more than should be allowed in a cabin (a major gripe of mine with the airways!) and is going through the inevitable double-double-checking of passport and boarding pass. The journey he is about to undertake is causing him acute stress and he tries to control the near-hysteria with breathing exercises. On yet another routine checking, he discovers that he’s forgotten to put on socks!

As he is trying to manipulate himself back into his shoes, in comes Danielle. Trim and pert in an air hostess uniform, she’s crying her eyes out. Things aren’t going well in her life – and to make things worse, it’s her birthday. He becomes the receiving end of her frustrations but eventually they find a level of communication despite constant electricity blackouts as well as announcements over the public address system that his flight is delayed again – and yet again.

Danielle and Sean work well together – each one’s energy bouncing off the other and Many Happy Returns offers a lighthearted and amusing hour’s entertainment. I would like to see the piece developed further as there is the potential for a real twist in the tale here. The comedy business also needs tightening and stronger direction would bring out more of the offbeat humour without it becoming surreal.

Scenes are linked amusingly by appropriate songs like Come Fly with Me and Straighten Up and Fly Right.

Many Happy Returns is running on the National Arts Festival Fringe programme and can be seen at Vicky’s from June 26 to 30. – Caroline Smart




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