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REALITY BYTES (article first published : 2008-08-13; last edited : [an error occurred while processing this directive])

Written and directed by Rowin Munsamy (with directorial assistance from Wesley Maherry), Reality Bytes was the winner of this year’s Fringe Audience Favourite Award at the Musho Theatre Festival.

In this production, Rowin Munsamy addresses the problem of how the entertainment industry is to compete with the ever-growing market of interminable TV reality shows. As far as I am concerned, in most cases these shows constitute a dumbing-down process and are no more “reality” than my capacity to swim across the Atlantic!

Rowin has created an amusing and cleverly-devised one-act send-up of reality shows which opened tonight at the Square Space Theatre on the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College Campus for a week’s run. He is passionate about the fact that reality shows have made theatre audiences unappreciative of the stories that actors try to tell. His programme notes reflects his belief that “theatre is more than mere entertainment“ and that “story telling is an endangered form of art and unless something is done, then it will soon become extinct.”

It’s a known fact that more people vote for reality shows than they do in an election. Scary stuff but perhaps it says something about society as a whole!

The stage is bare save for a screen and we soon understand that we are in television land. Mahesh (Rowin Munsamy) – all hugs à la Oprah - and brusque, embittered Yvette (Tessa Sessions) are TV presenters. Mahesh is the anchorman and Yvette is filled with jealousy – she gets stuck with the weather report.

What starts off as an embattled relationship ends up as a close friendship as the two are plunged into a nightmare of reality shows from Surviving South Africa (Survivor) to Idiots (Idols), The Intern (The Apprentice), The Smallest Winner (The Biggest Loser), Small Sister (Big Brother) and Strictly Come Dancing (Strictly Come Jiva), to name some of them. Their first destination is the Victoria Market on a journey to Home Affairs! The problem is, they can’t find where they’re supposed to be going because all the road names have been changed!

They take on various persona as they move as a pair through the minefields of being voted on/off a programme – the end result seeing Mahesh as the winner having to make a choice through Deal or No Deal where he has to “win some, lose some” aspects of what he considers a perfect society.

With good body language and a chance to show off his dancing skills, Rowin Munsamy is hilarious in a number of roles. Tessa Sessions is spirited and suitably aggressive, as befits the part, offering a good foil for Rowin but she needs to watch her tendency to be shrill at times. Their dancing scene in Strictly Come Jiva was well-executed and they managed to avoid Tessa’s legs hitting something in this low-ceilinged venue. Voiceovers are by Chris Swart and Graham Sessions’ photography provides the background for the various scenarios.

Reality Bytes takes place in the Square Space Theatre, University of KZN, from August 12 to 17 nightly at 19h00 (Sunday at 15h00). Tickets R50 (R25 students, scholars and pensioners) booked through 083 763 6292 or email scruffyaugust@yahoo.com Watch promo on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiV-CFqDCTA – Caroline Smart




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