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

MENíS NIGHT (article first published : 2001-07-5)

The poster says it all Ė an image of Michelangeloís David complete with braai tongs and a nearby Weber on which are two smouldering steaks. Menís Night. Time to look at male issues, which if this production is anything to go by, appear to focus a fair deal on genitalia and sexual relationships!

Menís Night offers a series of monologues, much like multi-award winning actor and director Greig Coetzeeís format for his phenomenally successful White Men with Weapons. Iím open to correction but I believe that this is Durban actor Ben Vossís first professional play and heís made a good choice in selected Greig to direct his efforts.

Ben Voss is one of KZNís most exciting young actors and he likes a challenge. He has a coiled energy which lends itself well to these muscular pieces. The result is an energetic, thought-provoking, somewhat unbalanced but definitely memorable 70-minute long production which is currently running on the Fringe of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

The set/props comprise six beer crates which are cleverly used as a link for each of the six sketches. First of all, we see a Standard V boarding school youngster waiting for the shower. In the midst of the relentless banter, he is dreading the moment between shower and towel when he has to appear completely naked before his more well-endowed classmates. The next piece deals with an out-of-work drummer serving at a second-rate eatery who meets up with a mate from the old days. Racism is what drives the owner of an outfit called Sink or Swim who has taken on a black partner for PC reasons but finds that the person has his own ideas of running the company.

Then we meet an inarticulate and educationally challenged youngster calling at the posh home of a girl he met the previous night at a pop concert but finds that the Rear Admiral and his doctor wife donít make him terribly welcome.

The last two pieces are the most aggressive Ė one deals with a gun toting trigger-happy divorcee who is ready to blow not only his wifeís second husband away at the least encouragement, but would blow her and their son to smithereens just as happily. The final piece sees a 21 year-old in a bamboo bungalow in Bangkok. Heís just spent the night with a delicately built Taiwanese prostitute. Her fragility and smallness evokes the beast in him and what started out as lovemaking turns into abuse.

Despite the negative aspects of the characters, Ben includes much humour in his work and there are some delicious laugh lines. Greigís assured direction keeps Menís Night from being uncomfortably confrontational and within the realms of theatre. One thing he still needs to do, though, is get Ben out of the 180 kilometre per hour speech zone and into a comfortable 150! The dialogue is good and we donít want to miss any of it.

The show still needs tightening but both Ben and Greig like to hone and polish their craft, so look forward to a highly dramatic production when it eventually gets to be performed in KZN. A warning for the sensitive - expect violent, as well as explicit, sexual language.




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