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INTERCOURSES (article first published : 1999-06-22)

Intercourses by Retha Street is one of three productions going to the Standard Bank National Arts Festival from Durban’s Kwasuka Theatre. Directed by Pieter Scholtz, who also directs the other two (A Wilderness of Monkeys and Angelo’s Magical Hat-Trick) it is a well-written and finely presented piece of theatre.

It’s a positive showcase for the talents of Susan Monteregge who has adapted Retha Street’s story for the stage. Providing support in terms of musical backing and representing the occasional male character is Juan Burgers who makes for a calm and dignified foil.

“All courses lead to intercourses” Susan announces as the elegant hostess as she likens preparing a meal to the skills required in keeping the physical side of a marriage stimulated. But this is jumping ahead. To go back to the beginning - the play opens with its simple (and Grahamstown Fringe-friendly!) set with a table, a few chairs, the inevitable hat stand with changes of clothing, a door frame, some benches and an electronic keyboard.

Susan virtually glides in, looking elegant in a black outfit and a wide-brimmed straw hat. Pausing for effect in the frame, she then proceeds to produce an array of characters that appear in one woman’s life from childhood to marriage through eventual divorce and depression to the possible flowering of a new relationship.

The writing is skilled, humourous and clever. Characters are well-drawn and believable. Notable among these are a raucous coloured woman and Cliffie aged 11 racing around with bike handlebars and back-to-front cap. He suddenly discovers romance, waxing lyrical as he likens his dropped banana skin to Tretchikov’s famous orchid painting.

Susan Monteregge has a good ear for accents and is completely in command of her voice. The play uses these abilities to the full and we see other delightful characters like the weeping blonde pigtailed teenager bewailing to her parents that she wants to sail off into the blue on a yacht with her new beau.

There are highly amusing interludes such as the episode where she goes to a party with some undesirable acquaintance who (from her height in her new stiletto heels) is “short, short, short!” which prompts an amusing dancing scene. To add insult to injury the date ends with the Frenchman – “well, Mauritius, not real French” - plunging his hand down her front and fondling her breast with “all the savoir faire of polishing brass”. That’s when the stilettos came in real handy!

While Juan Burgers doesn’t have a lot to say - sometimes all he utters is a single word to finish a sentence – he comes to the fore in the musical interludes and his presence is always supportive and sensitive. Even with his head stuck through the hole of those daft beachfront figures used for photographs!

Intercourses is bound to be a winner on the Fringe. It’s just the kind of clean, clear-cut and well thought-out production one craves in a festival overdose of culture. Miss it and you’ll be sorry!


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