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SOSS (article first published : 1999-08-12)

Education through entertainment is what SOSS (Save our Solar System) is all about. This new play for children, written and directed by Jacky Vermaas, is a co-operative venture between Kwasuka Theatre and Technikon Natal's department of drama studies.

The play is set on the moon and sets out to dispel the myth that there is no “man in the moon” – in fact, as the song goes … “The man in the moon is a lady”. Two ladies, in fact. Twin sisters - Tic (Lunatic) and Arian (Lunarian) - both played by Debbie Lutge. Opening the play, lounging on the table with a lunar cocktail and delivering her lines with a 30’s come-hither style, Tic is the villain of the piece, as dark as the darker side of the moon she controls. Arian, on the other hand, is friendly, scatty and frivolous.

As the genial and energetic MoonBeam No.1, Thabo Godide glides in and out on roller skates dressed in molten silver with nodding antennae, occasionally spouting quotations that he can’t identify. Providing answers to his frequent announcements of “I read that in a book somewhere” is Dennis Schauffer (Space Degrader) who is quick to provide the reference points which range from Alice in Wonderland and The Tempest to Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Masquerading as a diplomatic from earth, Space really works for an outfit that is threatening to destroy the ozone layer.

With its turquoise arched doorways and sequinned backcloth, the show is designed by Hugo le Roux who will be remembered by Durban audiences from the days of the Napac Dance and the Playhouse Dance companies. While the device of changing Tic to Arian and vice versa is effective through the use of a dramatic and elegant long-skirted coat, different head-dresses or wigs would have helped the deception. There’s also a wondrous “space broom” clad in tinsel.

The first part of the show is slow to gel, particularly in comparison to the second act which fairly zips along. A lot of this has to do with Portia Gumede. Delightfully dressed in a multi-coloured and patched costume with a hat adorned with yellow daisies, she provides a welcome dose of energy and snappy dialogue. Her name is Nowhere and she’s looking for her other half, Somewhere – a neat device which makes for some enjoyable comedy exchanges.

I would have liked to have seen the script re-written to introduce the character of Internet sooner. Internet, with a keyboard as a head-dress and a mass of wires down his back, is played deadpan by Brian Hiles whose progress as a drama student I have watched with interest. For once, his youthful and expressive face was suited to the character he plays.

Introduced by a cleverly devised programme, SOSS has some fun moments. When night falls, it really does – with a crash! Generally, though, much of the humour went over the heads of the youngsters in the audience, particularly at the show I attended. Hopefully, however, they went home having absorbed the play’s ecological message. Performances are at KwaSuka Theatre every Saturday afternoon from August 7 at 14h30. Booking at Computicket or KwaSuka on 309-2236.


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