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OUT OF ORDER (article first published : 2001-03-4)

“Out of Order” is a term suggesting that someone has overstepped the mark and this is the title British farceur Ray Cooney gave to one of his funniest plays which is running at the Courtyard Theatre on Technikon Natal’s Berea campus until March 10. Out of Order deals with Richard Zuma, a junior politician (Joel Zuma) who finds himself in the embarrassing situation of finding a supposedly-dead body (Siyanda Duma) in the suite of the hotel where he has planned a love tryst.

Added to the complications is the fact that his mistress (Tarryn Leek) is a parliamentary secretary for the opposition party. Her husband (Bryan Hiles) has discovered their affair and is rampaging around the hotel after his blood. His personal assistant (Lee Loveridge) is distracted by an ailing mother left in the care of a bossy lisping nurse (Georgina Konigkramer) and the formidable hotel manager (Faith Nongalaza) is becoming increasingly irritated by the shenanigans in Room 64.

Amid Richard’s nightmare of frantic fabrications, there’s also a light-fingered waiter (Denton Douglas) who has a tendency to listen at keyholes; a maid (Gizelle Joseph) who only speaks broken English and an ominous security guard (Titus Pharoe). And, as if things weren’t chaotic enough, his wife (Ntando Cele) pitches up out of the blue!

Many may consider farce frothy nonsense and not “real drama”. It’s real, alright. For the actors, terrifyingly real. They have to rely on the absolute efficiency of special effects – in this case, a faulty sash window – and scenery such as doors that close properly. Another nightmare is the array of props needed, like telephones that ring on cue or articles correctly placed – especially if they have to be fallen over!

In the average straight play or light comedy, if you get into trouble with dialogue when lines or cues are missed, the action is relaxed enough for the performers to work through the problem quickly, improvise and get themselves out of trouble before the audience notices anything is wrong.

In farce, there’s no room for error. It’s almost like a machine. Words, people, props, scenery, all have to be in exactly the right place at the right time otherwise the humour bombs or falls flat.

This is Jacky Vermaas’s final production as head of Technikon Natal’s department of Drama and Entertainment Technology as she is soon to leave South Africa for Scotland to marry former opera singer Lawrence Folley, who Durban audiences will remember fondly for his many performances for Napac Opera.

By way of saying goodbye she has chosen a farce, a reminder of her young days when she frequented the Johannesburg theatres and productions by top comedy and farce companies of the time. Out of Order stands true to her reputation as a good director and is a fitting farewell. Her student cast with guest artist and department graduate Bryan Hiles keeps up a cracking pace. She has changed British political parties for those of South Africa and replaced names of prominent British politicians with their South African counterparts, making Out of Order as up-to-date and highly relevant now as it was when it was originally written in the 60’s.

As Richard, Joel Zuma has a marathon of a part and gives a spirited and sustained performance, continuing the promise he showed as one of the old men in Jerry Pooe’s Peace in the Valley. Another notable performance comes from Lee Loveridge who handles his chaotic part with good comedy timing. Now a professional actor, Bryan Hiles has benefited considerably from his four month stint in The Playhouse Cellar with Snow White and Several Dwarfs and his voice has acquired added maturity and strength.

Steven Norminton has produced an attractive and workable set with a painted floorcloth that gives the impression of luxurious carpeting.

Out of Order runs in the Courtyard Theatre from March 6 to 10 at 19h30. Book at Computicket or phone Barbara on (031) 204-2194 (mornings only) - Caroline Smart




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