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

KING KONG (article first published : 2000-12-10)

In 1933 Hollywood script writers Edgar Wallace and Merian Cooper took Rene Chateaux’s novel of King Kong, and turned it into what was to become a classic movie script. The story involves sea voyages, Black Death Island and a beautiful girl sacrificed as bait to capture a massive ape so that he could be brought to New York.

Aldo Brincat has chosen to take the story of King Kong and send it up completely for his latest production of the same name running at the KwaSuka Theatre.

We’ve seen this type of theatre before: first from Ellis Pearson when he returned from the Le Coq mime school in Paris, then taken up by Nicholas Ellenbogen and his Theatre for Africa’s Raiders of the Lost Aardvark shows which involved Ellis and later Andrew Buckland.

It is theatre that challenges the imagination through minimal sets and costumes and the madcap use of ordinary, everyday items for props. Aldo Brincat also trained at the Le Coq school and he has incorporated skills acquired at this famed institution with his own off-the-wall humour.

Aldo has produced and performed in many good shows but this time he wisely opted to take on the services of experienced director Peter Court, well known for his former experience in pantomime in the UK and in numerous productions in South Africa. His input shows. King Kong is tightly directed where it could easily have become self-indulgent and unfocused and both performers are seen to their best advantage.

For his co-star, Aldo made another wise choice – that of award winning actor Michael Gritten whose considerable energy and power makes a nice foil for Aldo’s internalised performance ethic which can sometimes be understated to his own detriment.

Between them, they play seven characters. Aldo is delightful and prissy as the beautiful Lillian, ominous as one-eyed, limping and hook-armed Captain Peterson and robust as the Scottish seaman Eggnog. Michael is the ruthless movie producer Frank Cunningham and the hot-blooded hero Scott Hudson. Both Aldo and Michael take it in turns to play King Kong or the narrator.

Often all that is required to recognise the characters is a comb, a spoon, a flexing of the muscles or a simple tinsel bow on the head. Most of the time Cunningham and Hudson interact and the carefully-manipulated use of a half-on, half-off jacket provides the identity - the scene where they fight is little short of brilliant. While there is much frantic action and clever use of perspective, there are also tender moments such as a lovely gentle scene when Lillian comforts the dying Kong.

An imaginative and exhilarating dramatic experience for the whole family, King Kong runs at the KwaSuka Theatre until December 23. Performances are Tuesdays to Saturdays at 19h30. Tickets R23 at Computicket (www.computicket.co.za). For block bookings call 083 92-5324




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