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

THE HOLE (article first published : 2001-07-6)

It’s Christmas Eve and the prisoners in “The Hole”, a pro-active and relaxed correctional services establishment, are about to present their annual variety show. This offers an opportunity for Tyron Akal and Santhiran Moonsamy to perform a number of offbeat characters in their hour-long production The Hole currently playing the Fringe of the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Directed by Tamar Meskin, The Hole is a perfect example of one of the vital aspects of this annual festival. Grahamstown is where many performers, directors, writers present their work for the first time to gauge audience reactions and criticism from reviewers. The resulting feedback offers valuable pointers in regard to re-writing or re-structuring the production before it is presented back home.

The Festival offers a captive theatre audience, people with the desire to experience challenging and new works. They’re not afraid to pay the ticket price and take a chance as to whether they’ll like it or not. Back home, you have to woo the general public to be of the same mindset – a far more difficult undertaking.

All told, The Hole is gently amusing but it needs major restructuring if it is to achieve its full potential. There is a fairly dark side to the piece and it should be decided whether this should be explored further or else bring it in line with the rest of the action. Tyron and Sans work well together – a kind of Laurel and Hardy pair – and they have a pleasing stage presence. But that’s not strong enough to carry the production.

Fair enough, the venue they have in Grahamstown is vast and unkind to this kind of show. The Hole would work well in a venue such as Kwasuka, the Playhouse Sanlam Loft or the Square Space Theatre – somewhere where the lighting design would assist in identifying the different scenarios.

The cast themselves agree that they need to re-think the piece so, hopefully, by the time it re-appears in Durban, it will be much-pruned and briskly entertaining. The potential is definitely there. – Caroline Smart




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