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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 SOUND OF MUESLI (article first published : 1999-09-10)

A request for the title of a play yet to be written, let alone produced, eight months ahead of its first performance elicited a desperate response from its creator Greg King. At the time he had given it little thought but, undaunted, launched into: “It’s called The Sound of Muesli and it’s about a cereal killer.” Thus The Sound of Muesli (subtitled Fruits, Nuts and Cereal Killers) became the University of Natal Pietermaritzburg’s submission for the Grahamstown 1999 Student Festival in July.

Greg King - better known to Durban audiences as a cartoonist, actor and member of the Creative Madness Puppet Company - set out to explore the genres of the Hollywood musical and the horror movie. The result is a refreshingly clever and highly innovative satirical send-up of one of the world’s most popular musicals, the Sound of Music. And it has a very neat twist at the end.

The setting is the Sound of Music Abbey which is an order of so-called nuns, controlled by self-appointed head of the Abbey, Maria Granola von Pratt (Emma Allen) who fell in love with the movie as a child and vowed that the rest of her life would be a musical. The other `nuns’ are played by Sannah Gwala, Jane Fisher, Olivia Borgen and Mandy Boast. Named Heidi, Sylvia, Problem (as in Problem Child), Lake and Maria – this makes for a hilarious rendering of “How do you solve a problem like Maria.” (Run the names together and you’ll get it!)

Every morning with arms outstretched, the `nuns’ go `spinning’ (remember the opening moments of the movie with Julie Andrews on top of the mountain?). One spinning session, they discover a man (Dean Roberts) half buried in the snow. As he is carrying hand-written sheet music of Sound of Music songs, they assume that he is Oscar Hammerstein. Maria decides to nurse him back to health at the Abbey and keep him incarcerated until he writes a sequel that will, naturally, feature her as the heroine.

The show is full of inventive scenes like the re-enactment of `Oscar’s’ supposed car accident and his frantic writing process which used about 25 metres of paper towel and a wooden bread box! Paper towel also played a major role in a very funny condensed version of Sound of Music proper. Unfortunately, this had such a strong impact on the audience that it was a tough act to follow. The next couple of scenes appeared to flounder without focus as the action explores the darker side of Maria von Pratt and her cloudy history.

The well balanced cast, directed by Greg King, all give consistently good performances. Spare a thought, however, for those who have to clean up the stage and costumes afterwards as things tend to get more than a bit messy in the last scene!

The Sound of Muesli will have one performance at the Hilton Festival on September 18 at 15h00. But I don’t think we’ve seen the last of it - once reworked and tightened up, I’m sure it’ll be back on the mainstream theatre scene.


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