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TIN HAT FROLICS (article first published : 2002-05-22)

In honour of the MOTH (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) organisation’s 75th anniversary, Troubadour Productions is presenting Tin Hat Frolics at the Kwasuka Theatre in Durban, prompted by its highly successful short run last month at the Rhumbelow Theatre.

Multi-talented Caroline Smart has scripted the production with John Simpson. The direction is also in her capable hands and she has focused the considerable musical and dramatic talents of Frank Graham, Peter Gardner, Rosalie Howard, Thomie Holtzhausen and herself into an evening of nostalgic cabaret with the help of the sure ear of musical director Venetia Dawber.

The simple and multi-purpose set represents at various times a radio newsroom, a gentlemen’s club, a living room in the East end of London during the blitz and the local pub. Here the songs of the period and the humour of the day clip along at a comfortable pace.

Frank Graham is hilarious as the regimental Sergeant Major with a twitching Groucho Marx moustache that seems to have a life of its own. He commands the audience to stand to attention for a moment and then to sing along heartily – the night I was there, he had his work cut out for him!

Together with Peter Gardner, they form the life and soul of the “Old Bull and Bush”, the corner pub. Like Laurel and Hardy, they slur and hiccough through songs from the Emerald Isle to I love a Lassie, much to my enjoyment.

The number I appreciated most was the Initials sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, a complete nonsense of communication through initials, rather than words.

Tin Hat Frolics is not all bar and skittles. Peter Gardner reads the news from the war front, his calm BBC-like tones a reminder of the horror of combat in the trenches in 1914 and the jubilation of V-Day in 1945.

Caroline Smart as the Storyteller also appeared as different characters. As Perla Siedle Gibson she sings the troops on their way from Durban Harbour, a good omen for the troops. As a mother with a soldier at the front, she bore with stoic resilience the news that her son was “missing in action – presumed dead.”

Rosalie Howard at the piano jauntily keeps the action on and off (in the pub!) key and Thomie Holtzhausen provides some comedy moments as the unknown solider.

This is an evening of gentle nostalgia and a remembrance of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and liberty today. The Last Post is a testimony to this.

A rare evening in the theatre, Tin Hat Frolics runs at the Kwasuka Theatre from May 22 to 26 at 19h30 with matinee performances at 14h30 on May 25 and 26. To book, contact 083 225-7934 or Kwasuka on 031 309-2236. Booking is also available at Computicket. – Allen Auld




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